Do you know what will happen to your estate, assets and all of your possessions when you die?
Without a Will, the law decides what happens to your estate. That includes your automobiles, jewelry, your home and all of the contents, your checking, savings and investment accounts, your other types of investments, your interests in your business and other assets.
Who do you think will get your estate when you die without a Will?
Do you want a court to decide who is going to manage your estate when you die?
When asking these types of questions to a husband and wife when they come in for estate planning, they are surprised and shocked by the answer. Assuming the husband and wife have never been previously married and that they have 2 adult children. Husband and Wife should understand that if you die without a Will your children will inherit the estate of the first spouse to die, one-half (½) of the community property and all of the separate property of the first spouse to die. Oh and the surviving spouse does get a statutory or legal usufruct (right of use), however, it is very limited. For example, consider your investment account. Real-life – wife calls and asks, “Did my husband finish his Will?” No, he did not. “Well there is no problem, my boys (in their 50’s) are good boys, I will not have any problems.” A week later, she calls back in tears. “I called my broker to sell some stock and he told me that one of my son’s called him and reminded him that he could not sell stock from the account based upon my instructions because it was my and my husband’s account and upon my husband’s death without a Will, my 2 sons own his half and the usufruct for me by law does not allow me to sell any of his one-half, as my son reminded the broker.”
What about the husband and wife who come in and want to have reciprocal Wills, the husband leaves all his assets to wife and wife leaves all her assets to husband and of course when the surviving spouse dies the kids will get everything that’s left. Not necessarily a good idea, because now what happens when the surviving spouse remarries. Well first to die spouse’s one-half is in all likelihood going to be left to the new spouse of the surviving spouse, thus the children get nothing.
These types of problems can be resolved by estate planning and setting out in a Will what you want to happen with your estate. The law provides you with a blank canvas, called a Will, and allows you to paint your own picture of what you want to happen to your assets when you pass.
What about blended families? Husband and/or wife have been previously married and have children from previous marriages. Think about what happens when your spouse dies without a Will. Who are you now co-owners with? If the legal usufruct provided for when there is no Will was difficult with natural children, guess how difficult it will be with the step-children, when their parent is deceased and any chance that he could referee died with him and he didn’t provide any rules because he didn’t write a Will.
A Will allows you to address these issues by writing your own rules. Even if you want to leave your one-half to your children, don’t you want your surviving spouse to have a full usufruct (use of your one-half) that allows the surviving spouse, for example, the ability to sell the house and reinvest the money in a new home without having to get permission from the deceased spouse’s children.
Every person should take advantage of the law allowing you to determine who gets or uses your assets after you die.