5 Myths of Personal Wills
Updated: May 20, 2019
Myth 1: Without a Will, everything I own will go to the state.
False. Only in very limited circumstances do a person’s assets and estate proceeds transfer to the state. The only time this would occur is when a person passes away without a Will, and leaves behind no heirs or descendants. Qualifying heirs and descendants include spouses, parents, children, grandchildren, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, or stepchildren. Essentially, if you have any family living when you pass away, your assets and proceeds will pass to those family members. If you pass away with no surviving family members, you can still prevent the state from receiving your assets by properly executing a Will. You can decide who will receive all your assets and belongings; this could be your best friend or a charity of your choosing.
Myth 2: I don’t need a Will until I’m older.
False. While it may be a daunting thought, unexpected events occur regardless of age and you don’t want to be caught unprepared. Even though you may be young or middle-aged, you have worthy assets. It is important to declare how you want to handle your assets if death was to occur. Whether you are 22 or 82, you should properly plan your estate. At the very core of estate planning is a Will. Decide now who you would like to leave your assets to, or who should be the guardian of your children. If you are younger, you can always change your Will to reflect your current wishes.
Myth 3: A Will and Living Will are the same thing.
False. A Will and a Living Will are two completely different and distinct legal documents. A Will is a document that indicates your instructions on how you would like your assets to be distributed after you pass away. Having a Will also outlines how you would like your assets dispersed, and in the event of personal debts, how those debts will be paid off. A Will also normally appoints an executor to handle the affairs for you. A Living Will is a legal document that indicates your wishes for health care treatment in certain situations. A Living Will expresses your wishes and appoints a conservator if there ever came a time where you became incapacitated. Most Living Wills indicate a person’s wish’s to receive or deny medical treatment such as CPR, the mechanical delivery of nutrition and hydration, or the use of an artificial respirator. It’s important to know the difference between the documents, but it is also crucial that both documents are established at a bare minimum.
Myth 4: My family knows what I want, they can make the decisions for me when I die.
False. While it may be true that your family is aware of your wishes upon death, without properly planning your estate, you are leaving your family with, frankly speaking, a mess to clean up. Without a Will, you most likely would not have appointed an executor, therefore, the decision is ultimately left to the probate court to decide who will be closing out the estate. So that family member that did know your wishes may be prevented from being able to make those decisions at all. The best way to ensure that your wishes are preserved and followed is to properly plan your estate and that starts with a Will.
Myth 5: Everything will go to my spouse anyways, so I don’t need a Will.
False. When a person dies without a Will there are many different scenarios that can happen. It will all come down to that person’s living family members and their relationship to the deceased person. When you pass away without a Will to express your wishes, there are laws that determine how your assets will be divided amongst your living relatives. Connecticut laws state that if a person were to die without a Will (die intestate), then their assets shall be divided as follows, if the deceased person is:
Survived by a spouse and children all of whom are children of the spouse: In this case, the surviving spouse will inherit the first $100,000 of the deceased spouse's probate estate and one-half (1/2) of the balance and the children will inherit the remainder, per stirpes. (Per Stirpes is a fancy way of stating that your assets will be distributed evenly down each line of succession. Example: If Bob has two children, each child will get ½ of Bob’s estate. But if one of Bob’s children predeceases him and that child has two children of their own, those two grandchildren will evenly split their parent’s ½ interest in Bob’s estate.)
Survived by a spouse and one or more children who are not descendants of the spouse: In this case, the surviving spouse will inherit one-half (1/2) of the deceased spouse's probate estate and the deceased person's children will inherit the remaining one-half (1/2), per stirpes.
Survived by a spouse and no descendants or parents: In this case, the surviving spouse will inherit the deceased spouse's entire probate estate.
Survived by descendants and no spouse: In this case, the deceased person's descendants will inherit the entire probate estate, per stirpes.
Survived by a spouse and parent or parents and no descendants: In this case, the surviving spouse will inherit the first $100,000 of the probate estate and the balance will be distributed three-fourths (3/4) to the surviving spouse and one-fourth (1/4) equally to the parents or all to the only surviving parent.
Survived by a parent or parents and no spouse or descendants: In this case, the deceased person's parents will inherit the probate estate in equal shares if both are living or the entire probate estate will go to the only surviving parent.
Estate planning has a multitude of facets including retirement plans, insurance policies, trusts, funeral expenses, and so much more. But, the foundation of estate planning starts with executing a personal Will. When you do decide to execute a will, don’t let these 5 myths mislead you.
I would love to help answer any questions or concerns you may have. If you believe you need a Will, Living Will, an appointment of a health care representative, and/or a power of attorney, call now to schedule an appointment with Attorney Patrick C. Roy.