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Who needs a will? Pretty much everyone

It’s obvious why wills are necessary for married people who have children and valuable assets, but for those of us who don’t have kids or large estates, a will is still important.

“Most people over the age of 18 need a will,” says Shari-Lynn Cuomo Shore, an attorney in Hamden, Conn. “Single individuals often need a will even more so than a married person. For married people, in most jurisdictions, most property can pass to the surviving spouse upon the death of the other spouse. However, since an unmarried person does not have this option, their estates generally go through probate court.”

Shore explains that probate court can be complicated and frustrating. Of course, at that point, you probably won’t care — you’ll be on to bigger and better things. But those frustrations could fall on your partner, parents or siblings. Having a will makes the whole dreadful process easier on your loved ones, who are already dealing with your passing.

A will can also prevent unnecessary probate costs, “leaving more money for your heirs or those you designate to receive your assets,” says Shane Fischer, an attorney in Winter Park, Fla. “For the few hundred bucks it costs to write a will, it’s worth it.”

Depending on your familial situation, your assets could also be distributed to anyone from your estranged parents to a distant family member, and you might not want that.

“This could be disastrous,” says Fischer. “Even if you are single with no children and have no other living relatives, you should write a will because you would much rather leave your money to a friend/alma mater/charity than a distant cousin you’ve never met.”

Also, if you’re unmarried and you pass on, your partner isn’t even recognized unless you’ve named them in a will.
For any of us who want our assets distributed in a certain way, regardless of whether we’re married or have children, estate planning is crucial. Also, if you have certain requests or wishes to be carried out after you pass, a will can help with that, too. And in addition to assets, there are other things to think about — pets, for example. Or jewelry. Or how you want your remains to be handled.

And if you do prepare a will, “tell someone where it is,” says Fischer. “Otherwise, your assets could be processed as though you died intestate since nobody knew you had a will.”

What do you think? Have you ever run into a situation where a loved one not having a will has caused problems?