Sweet potato casserole, fresh dinner rolls, and of course pumpkin pie. Tack on a tryptophan induced nap and more football than one could watch, what’s to not love about Thanksgiving? This time of year, when surrounded by loved ones and spending time reflecting on all the reasons to be thankful, I am always inspired to better show my appreciation and to be a better husband, father, and sibling. When I think of how Thanksgiving has changed over the years; how seats at the table once filled by loved ones who have passed on are now filled by former occupants of the kids table, I wonder what Thanksgiving dinner will look like when my seat has a new inhabitant and what my legacy will be.

The best way to know your loved ones are taken care of after you’re gone is to have a valid Last Will and Testament. While some avoid thinking about estate planning considering it morbid, their worries are misplaced. After all, everyone will eventually die and leaving a plan in place is one of the best ways to show your love and care. Failing to have a plan in place can lengthen the probate process, take away all control of who will inherit your estate, and expose your loved ones to legal challenges and burdens. Beyond those negatives of dying without a will, called dying intestate, here are some of the best reasons to have a will.

i. You get to decide who will care for your children.

A will allows you to appoint a guardian for your minor children; someone you know and trust to take the best care of your children in your absence. Without a will, the court will choose and while it could be a family member, it could also be a state-appointed guardian. Although the court will consider the best interest of the child, it may not be who you would pick.

ii. You get to decide who will inherit from your estate.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has specific rules on who will inherit an estate in the absence of a will. This is known as intestate succession and it can become complicated when factoring in ex-spouses, adopted and step-children, and grandchildren. Being able to leave certain individuals out of your will or include friends or charities is one of the more prominent reasons to have a valid will.

iii. You can change your mind.

As your life changes, your desires as to who inherits and administers your estate can change too. There will be births and deaths; some will lose your trust and others will gain it. Without a will, your estate is subject to the rules of intestate succession and the courts. With a will, you can change your mind as often as you would like, insuring that your wishes are honored and followed out.

iv. You can simplify the probate process.

People often have a desire to avoid probate, which is the process of administering an estate. However, unless you own nothing more than jointly owned property, an estate will go through probate whether or not there was a will. The directions in a will provide the specific information necessary to simplify the probate process. If you die intestate, the courts will have to apply the appropriate laws of intestate succession and appoint guardians and administrators complicating and extending the process.

v. You will ease the pain of your loved ones during a difficult time.

Losing a loved one is never easy, and dealing with red-tape and bureaucracy while grieving makes the process all that much worse. Having a plan in place will simplify the process and give your loved ones that much less to worry about during a time of pain

There are many more, often personal reasons to have a will. But a complete estate plan includes much more. Your estate plan should also include a power of attorney (which appoints someone to make financial or health-related decisions if you’re unable), a living will (which spells out your wishes for certain serious health-related scenarios), and potentially a trust (which allows you to allocate and set aside certain assets outside of your will). Creating a comprehensive estate plan that works for you may seem overwhelming, but a good attorney can simplify the process and make you comfortable knowing your wishes will be honored. Contact Attorney Kline today to get started on your complete estate plan and receive a free living will.

Enjoy your time with your loved ones and be thankful for every day you’re given.

Happy Thanksgiving!