Top Ten Ways to Control Your Money From The Grave

Having a last will and testament will help your loved ones avoid a long probate process and settle your estate according to your wishes.
By Francine L. Huff

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successful lawyer giving consultation to family about will

You just know that when you’re gone one of your annoying relatives is going to cause a stink over who gets that ugly old statue you’ve never really liked but that’s been handed down for generations. So make sure you have a will in place to help your loved ones avoid unnecessary squabbles.

If you’re among the approximately 60% of Americans who don’t have a will, you’ll  have little say in what happens to your estate–or your children. It doesn’t matter if you have a high net worth or live in a trailer park. Here are 10 reasons you need a will.

  1. You can decide who gets your assets. Let’s say you have a son who is awful at managing money and you fear he’ll blow his inheritance on guitars and brewskies. By having a will you can control how much he inherits so the bulk of your estate will be in the care of more responsible family members.
  2. You can set up trusts for minors. If you have small children, you need a plan to make sure they are taken care of financially and get their inheritance when they are adults.
  3. You need to name a guardian for minor children. If you can’t stand the thought of your loud-mouth aunt getting custody of your kids, make sure you choose their guardian. If you and your spouse die with no will, a court gets to decide where they’ll live.
  4. Your assets could get tied up in probate, which is the legal process for settling an estate. If you don’t have a will you’re leaving it up to the court to decide who gets what. This process could take months or even years depending upon the complexity of your estate.
  5. You’ll owe less taxes and legal fees if your estate isn’t tied up in probate.
  6. You can leave money to your favorite charity. Whether you’re passionate about global warming, animals rights, or sending kids to clown school, make sure your family members honor your wishes.
  7. If you’ve been married more than once, make sure your assets will go to the correct spouse. Wouldn’t it be something if your crazy ex-spouse got all your money because your never wrote or changed your will?
  8. You can choose the executor of your estate. This is the person who will be responsible for making sure your estate is settled properly. They will also be responsible for handling any outstanding debts, taxes, and financial matters.
  9. If you want to leave money to someone who isn’t related to you, put it in writing. Otherwise, your property will automatically go to family members.
  10. You’ll have peace of mind that you’ve done everything you can to make settling your estate easier for your loved ones when you’re gone.

If you have a lot of assets, hire an attorney to help you put together your last will and testament. For less complex situations you may be able to get by using legal software. But your life isn’t a movie, so skip the handwritten will and recorded video locked in a secret safe-deposit box to be opened at the end of a treasure hunt.


About Author
Francine L. Huff is a contributor to and the author of “The 25-Day Financial Makeover: A Practical Guide for Women.” She previously worked as an editor at the Wall Street Journal and Boston Globe, and has appeared on a variety of TV and radio shows. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism from Northwestern University