Some people believe that if they only have a small amount of assets they do not need a Will. While it is true that some assets can (with proper planning) pass outside of probate, and that other assets can pass with a small estate proceeding or affidavits of heirship, it is often difficult to avoid a probate.
Even more important, if you have children under the age of 18, a guardian will have to be appointed for the children.
Your best chance to clarify who should be the guardian for your children is to set that out in a Will.
Even if there is no other reason to have a Will, this is reason enough for a Will. Having a Will gives you the chance to say who will raise your children if both parents are deceased. Perhaps equally important, having a Will gives you a chance to say who should NOT raise your children if both parents are gone.
Without a Will, your closest relatives will be more likely to be the ones to raise your children, whether or not you think they are the best suited for this role.
Further, without a Will, each similarly related relative will have the same priority as all other relatives of the same degree of relationship. It can be VERY important to have a Will to give priority for one person over another, or even to say who you do not want to raise your child.
Remember, children can be valuable. They come with significant monthly government financial benefits, particularly when they are orphans. You do NOT want your children to be raised by a relative who is interested more in the money than in raising your children.
This is even more true if you want a more distant relative, or even just a friend, to be raising your children, instead of one of your closer relatives.
Having a Will can be very important, even if you have no money and no other assets to pass through a probate (and even though most people, even if of modest means, do have such other assets to preserve or distribute, whether for the benefit of their children, or for the benefit of other persons or individuals).
Steven A. Heinrich
Divorce & Custody
Wills, Guardians & Elder Law
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- Overview of Guardianships, Trusts, and Health Care Documents
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