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Two of the Biggest Myths About Wills and Dying Without One

If you’re putting off writing that will, think again. According to surveys, about 55% of American adults do not have an estate plan in place – and those numbers are an average. If you separate out minority groups, the number of adults without wills is much higher in several minority groups.

While there are many misconceptions about estate planning, here are two of the biggest misunderstandings we see.

“It won’t take long to put together my will.”

Writing down your wishes on a napkin doesn’t cut it. Even simple wills can take 6 months to complete, and complicated ones can take over a year. You might be 25, 35, or 45 – and it’s not too early to think about it. We guarantee that your assets are more complicated than you think.

“If I die without a will, everything will go to my spouse.”

Wrong. Less than half of U.S. states have this provision in place. Other states give one-third of your estate to your spouse and your children divide the rest. More give them one-half. A few states have laws that divide the estate equally between the spouse and children.

What about the person you’ve been living with for 15 years but never married? Regardless of sexual orientation, that often won’t hold up in a court of law. Very few states recognize “common law marriage” and your partner may be left without a share of your estate.

What Does Happen?

If you’re married, one of the above scenarios may occur in divvying up your estate. However, if you have young children, your spouse may be stuck managing all the different funds for your children separately. If your kids are grown, and your estate is divided equally, your spouse may be relying on them for financial support.

When you don’t have children, your spouse may still not get everything, as some states will divide an estate with your parents, siblings, and more distant relatives. And if you have a more complicated family structure, like a remarriage and children from both marriages, it gets even more confusing.

No spouse? Parents and siblings stand to inherit, or occasionally parents of a late spouse.

With all the different options that may occur, it’s vital that you set up a last will and testament so your estate is divided in the way that you want – not according to state laws if you die intestate. Make sure you set up an appointment with an estate attorney as soon as possible for your peace of mind, as well as that of your spouse and family.