The Importance of a Will

Every person over the age of eighteen should have a will. A will allows you to decide who will receive your assets upon your death.  If you do not have a will, the State of Maine decides who receives your assets.  The rules the State of Maine established to distribute your assets may not be consistent with your wishes.  For instance, if, upon your death, you are married, have no children, and one or both of your parents survive you, a portion of your estate will go to your surviving parent(s) rather than your spouse.  A will also allows you to name the personal representative of your estate who will be responsible for taking the steps necessary to administer your estate.  Most importantly, if you have minor children, a will allows you to name a guardian for your minor children.  You know which person is best suited for that job.  You also can include a simple testamentary trust by which you name a trustee to hold the funds for your children until they reach a certain age.  You can direct the trustee to distribute the money for your children’s health, maintenance, support, and education expenses.

The most common reason for not having a will is the desire to avoid probate. Most of the articles advising you to avoid probate, however, are directed at residents of states which have a much more complicated probate system than Maine’s.  Here, probating a will simply means filing it with the Probate Court, allowing the Court to treat your will as the final will.  The personal representative is then tasked with distributing the estate in accordance with the terms of the will, typically without further Probate Court involvement.

This article is not legal advice but should be considered as general guidance in the area of estate planning. Darcie P.L. Beaudin, Jill A. Checkoway, and Bryan M. Dench are Trust & Estate Planning attorneys; others at the firm handle business and other matters. You can contact us at 207.784.3200. Skelton Taintor & Abbott is a full service law firm providing legal services to individuals, companies, and municipalities throughout Maine. It has been in operation since its founding in 1853.