According to AARP, only about 40% of Americans have a will. This number is even higher for younger adults. According to a recent Gallup poll, only about 14% of people under 30 have a will. In fact, in 2016, Gallup reports that only about 35% of adults between 30 and 49 years of age had a will. While having a will may seem like something only the elderly and wealthy need to worry about, there are good reasons for a younger adult (especially if you are a spouse or parent) should have a will.
Perhaps the simplest and most straightforward reason to have a will is so that you get to decide how things are distributed when you die. Death is uncertain. Car accidents, illnesses, and tragedies strike every day. While your chances of dying prematurely are lower when you are young, you cannot predict the future. It is best to decide in advance how you want your affairs handled, rather than letting the state decide.
The State of Alabama does not care about your desire to leave money to your church or local pet shelter. Nevertheless, the State of Alabama has already prepared your final estate plan for you, unless you make a will. Under the Alabama Probate Code, the state’s intestate succession law determines where your money and personal property go when you die.
Under Section 43-8-41 of the Alabama Probate Code, without a will, your spouse will likely take the bulk of your assets upon your death. It is irrelevant that you married late in life, have children from a prior marriage, or want to give certain specific items to other loved ones. In fact, under the law, here is what your spouse will receive:
- You have no children or parents? Spouse takes 100%.
- You have no children but you do have parents? Spouse takes first $100,000, then 50% of the remaining estate.
- You have children, and they are all by your spouse? Spouse takes first $50,000 and half of the remaining estate.
- You have children, and at least one of them is by someone other than your spouse? Spouse takes half your estate.
Remember that $100,000 is a lot of money. If you are a younger adult, chances are your net estate may not exceed this amount. This means your entire estate would go to your spouse. This leaves out your siblings, friends, and any charity you care about.
Probate has often been treated like a dirty word for the wealthy and others looking to avoid the process. In truth, probate is just a court process by which an attorney can help a family go through a deceased loved one’s estate and make good decisions about distribution and the payment of bills (also called “claims”). However, probate is public. Once filed, your estate assets and debts become public record. Many people would prefer to keep this private.
Many young adults are told not to worry about having a will because they likely have a “small estate.” In most states, a person’s estate does not have to go through probate if they have less than a set amount of assets. In some states, this may be $75,000 or $100,000. In Alabama, as of 2017, you can only use the small estate process if your total assets are less than $28,417.00. If you own a late model pick up, and have $5,000 in a bank account, chances are you may have enough money to require probate.
Getting a Will
You may be surprised how simple and affordable it can be to get a will prepared by a knowledgeable and experienced Birmingham estate planning attorney. Contact Five Points Law Group today to get a will and discuss your final estate plans.