What You Need to Know about Basic Wills – Our Guide

Have you ever thought about what will happen if you die without drawing up a will? Here's what will happen: the state will decide what happens to your estate, which includes all your assets and possessions. In other words, the law will dictate who's going to inherit what after your death. 

This is probably why you've heard people saying that if you do nothing else to take care of your legal affairs, you should write a will. A valid last will and testament will leave no questions as to what your wishes are when you die. In short, you may express what you want to happen after your death through a simple will.

In the next section, we'll learn more about the importance of a basic will, discuss its correlation with probate, and cite a few examples. Maybe after that, you can see if a basic will is for you.

 

Importance of Basic Will

What exactly is a basic will? By definition, a basic or simple will is a legal document stating the wishes of the testator with regards to the distribution of their assets upon his or her death. The testator is the one who wrote the will. The executor is the one who will handle the estate during the testator's death, as stated in the will. 

In essence, a basic will specifies or states the following:

  • People and organizations you choose to leave some of your property to
  • Someone to manage the property you leave to your minor children
  • Who will care for your minor children since you won’t be around to do so
  • Your executor, the person tasked to make sure your will is followed to the letter

 

Instances Requiring Basic Will 

If you are below 50 years old and you only have a few valuable assets, you can come up with a basic will. However, when you're older and have acquired more assets and properties, you may need to have a more complex will and testament. Let's look at an example of how a basic will works.  

Chances are you and your spouse are getting older and have properties you want to leave to each other or your children in equal shares. You may also want to name a personal guardian for your children. Part of this is to have an executor who will oversee and execute your basic will. 

For instance, you and your spouse own two cars and have a total net worth of $400,000. You have one child named John, aged 11. In your will, you state that if you and your spouse die, all these assets will go directly to your son, John. You also indicate that your brother, June, will act as the executor and John’s guardian. June will take care of John and manage the property until John turns 18.

 

Basic Will and Probate

Another important matter as well is the relationship between a basic will and probate. The question is, can a basic will avoid probate? The simple answer is no. Probate is a legal process in which a will is reviewed to determine whether it is authentic and valid. Its length varies from state to state and can take anywhere from six months to a year. This may eat up three to five percent of your estate in lawyers' and court fees, and your beneficiaries will probably get little. But if you need only a basic will, you have very little reason to be concerned with probate. Your real concern is to make legal arrangements, should something unexpected happen to you. You've still got plenty of time to plan for probate later.

 

Final Words: Is a Basic Will for You?

The question is, is a basic will for you? The answer is yes if you:

  • Are in pretty good health.
  • Are under the age of 50.
  • Don't expect to owe estate tax upon your death.

 

However, if one of the following applies to you, then you probably need something more complex than a basic will. This includes the following cases:

  • Needing to control what happens to your property after your death.
  • Having a child with a disability or other special needs.
  • Having children from a prior marriage.
  • Needing to control what happens to your property after your death.
  • Thinking someone might contest your will.
  • When you or your spouse owes estate tax after your death