According to a Caring.com survey, 56 percent of American adults know it's important to have a will, but only one in three has an estate planning document. The main reasons the respondents gave for not having a will were:
• Procrastination (40%)
• They feel they lack enough assets for it to be worthwhile (33%)
• The estate planning process is too expensive (13%)
• Not knowing how to get a will (12%)
Researching estate plans – including a will – and talking to a loved one are often the first steps people take.
Why You Need a Will
Like the Caring.com survey takers, you might understand the need to have a will if you have heirs and assets. In Maine, if you own real estate or over $40,000 worth of assets, your property may be subject to probate, a court process to establish the validity of a will and distribute assets.
You don't have to be rich or old to have an estate plan. An estate plan, including a will, involves more than transferring assets or personal belongings. It may establish what will happen during end-of-life care or in case you become incapacitated. It can protect those you love, such as naming a legal guardian for any minor or disabled children or designating caretakers for any pets you own. A will makes known your final wishes and who you want to handle them to ease the end-of-life process for you and your loved ones.
What Happens If You Die Without a Will?
Property distribution and guardianship laws vary by state. If you die without a will, legally known as "intestacy," a Maine court may determine who will inherit any of your assets. They might go to someone you wouldn't have wanted to receive them. That could lead to conflicts among your loved ones, who may contest those decisions. People you wouldn't have wanted to handle the responsibility could petition for guardianship or conservatorship of any of your dependents.
Especially in these uncertain times, it makes sense to consider what the future holds. The Caring.com survey also reported that people who've had a serious case of COVID-19 are 66 percent more likely to have an estate plan. And 41 percent of Americans aged 18 to 34 were more likely to have a will or another estate planning document because of the pandemic.
Violence and serious illnesses are among the increasing threats to our mortality. Sadly, you never know what could happen. The best time to make a will is now, while you're still capable. Any adult at any age may create one and it doesn't have to cost a lot of money. When you have a plan in place, you can also feel at peace.
If you have a will but haven't updated it in a while, consider "dusting it off" and reviewing it for any updates it may need.
Our experienced attorneys would be happy to advise you on your estate planning options. Contact us online or call (207) 377-3966 today.