Should You Have a Will?

Tax Cut Taxes Estate Planning Will Trust Financial Security Tax

Should you have a will? You probably suspect that the answer is yes, but you may not have acted on that yet, perhaps because you're still young and/or relatively healthy. You're not alone, either. According to a 2011 poll, about 60% of Americans said they didn't have a will. Let's review the reasons you should have a will, though, as facing some facts might have you take action.

A will can reduce taxes

Without a will, your estate will probably spend more time in the legal system, generating bills from lawyers. Having many of your wishes spelled out can reduce probate time. In addition, if you're making financial gifts to loved ones, that can reduce your estate and, therefore, any estate taxes that might have been levied. Trust funds that you set up can also save money.

A will makes things easier for your loved ones

Dying "intestate" -- without a will -- can leave your loved ones with more headaches and costs than you probably want. Your estate can end up spending a lot of time in probate, delaying when inheritors receive their inheritances and costing more than it would have cost had you settled some matters in your will. Without a will designating beneficiaries, some or much of your estate may end up in the hands of those you wouldn't have chosen -- and family strife and even legal battles are more likely to ensue.

Don't take chances on how long you'll live. Prepare a will now to protect and provide for your loved ones, as it's the right thing to do. Know that a handwritten will may not stand up in court. Ideally, it should be a formal legal document, signed by two witnesses. While you're at it, draw up a formal living will, too, and durable power of attorney paperwork, so that trusted people can make healthcare or financial decisions for you should you be unable to.

Better still, consult a financial planner skilled in estate planning to see how you should best set up your end-of-life affairs, such as perhaps setting up trusts. Whatever money you spend consulting good financial pros can be more than make up for in tax savings.

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Longtime Fool specialistSelena Maranjian,whom you canfollow on Twitter , owns no shares of any company mentioned in this article.Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days . We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy .

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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