2-Minute Money Manager: Do I Really Need a Will?

Most experts insist everyone needs a will, but that's not always true. Here's how to determine whether you need to do a little estate planning.

2-Minute Money Manager: Do I Really Need a Will? Photo by George Rudy / Shutterstock.com

Welcome to the “2-Minute Money Manager,” a short video feature answering money questions submitted by readers and viewers.

Today’s question is about estate planning; specifically, whether everyone — no matter their circumstances — needs a will.

Nearly every financial expert would offer a one-word answer to this question: Yes. They would say everyone needs a will. While that’s almost true, nothing’s universal.

Watch the following video, and you’ll pick up some valuable info. Or, if you prefer, scroll down to read the full transcript and find out what I said.

You also can learn how to send in a question of your own below.

For more information, check out “Do It Now: 8 Essential Documents for Estate Planning” and “Ask Stacy: Can I Put Together My Own Will?” You can also go to the search at the top of this page, put in the words “estate planning” and find plenty of information on just about everything relating to this topic.

If you need a will or any other legal documents, click here to visit our partner for legal services, Rocket Lawyer. And if you need anything from a better credit card to a mortgage, be sure and visit our Solutions Center.

Got a question of your own to ask? Scroll down past the transcript.

Don’t want to watch? Here’s what I said in the video

Hello, and welcome to the “2-Minute Money Manager.” I’m your host, Stacy Johnson, and here behind me is Consumer Kitty. This answer is brought to you by MoneyTalksNews.com, serving up the best in personal finance, news and advice since 1991.

Today’s question comes from Anonymous:

“Do I really need a will? If I die without one, won’t my stuff just go to my next of kin anyway? Why bother?”

Well, Anonymous, I’ve got three things for you:

Thing No. 1: What’s a will, and what happens when you die without one?

A will is simply a legal document that specifies what you want done with your stuff after you die: your money, your property and — theoretically — even your kids.

What happens if you die without one? Simple: The state steps in and makes those decisions for you. Your things will be passed along to your heirs by a simple set of rules.

What typically happens is everything goes to your spouse, then your kids. If you don’t have either, then it goes to your parents. If they predeceased you, your siblings are next. If they’re gone, then your nieces and nephews.

In short, there’s a list of people who will get everything — unless they’re dead, in which case everything goes to the next in line. If you really don’t care and want the state to make those decisions, that’s certainly your prerogative.

Thing No. 2: Why you might want a will

If you have much of anything, you probably want to make some decisions about where your stuff goes. Do you really want your Hummel collection to go to your brother the biker?

It makes sense to have some kind of instructions so you can designate how your property and money get distributed. Maybe you want your favorite charity to have some money. Maybe you want your pet taken care of if you should die, like Consumer Kitty here. Maybe you want something to go to your best friend.

This is critical if you have kids. When you have a will, you’ll use it to name a guardian for minor children, something that’s obviously important.

So, while it’s possible you don’t need a will, the more you have and the more control you want to exert over it upon your death, the more you need a will.

Thing No. 3: Why not?

A will is cheap. You don’t have to go to an attorney and spend a $1,000 to get one. You can download something from the internet for less than $100, sometimes less than $50, that’ll give you a cheap, simple but perfectly legal will. Why not fill it out? It’s not that big of a deal.

Bottom line? While not everyone needs a will, you definitely do if you have money, property and/or minor children. And since wills aren’t expensive, it’s a good way to buy a little peace of mind.

My advice? Just do it. You can click on this link, download what you need for less than $50 and fill it in in less than an hour.

I hope that answers your question, Anonymous.

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The questions I’m likeliest to answer are those that will interest other readers. In other words, don’t ask for super-specific advice that applies only to you. And if I don’t get to your question, promise not to hate me. I do my best, but I get a lot more questions than I have time to answer.

About me

I founded Money Talks News in 1991. I’m a CPA, and have also earned licenses in stocks, commodities, options principal, mutual funds, life insurance, securities supervisor and real estate.

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Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Stacy Johnson
Stacy Johnson @moneytalksnews
I'm the founder of Money Talks News and have spent the last 40+ years in the personal finance trenches. I'm a CPA, author of a few books and multiple Emmy recipient. I'm ... More

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