By now we've all heard that Prince died without a will, which means his family has appealed to the Minnesota state courts to figure out who will get to inherit what from his multi-million dollar estate.
What are the odds you don't have a will? The best guess is that 50% of people don't have one. If you don't have children and have very little in the way of assets, that may be OK for you. But if you do have children, you need a will for the simple fact that if you don't have one, the state will decide who raises your kids.
That's the reality in the absence of any written direction from you. The same hold true if you and a partner are living together without the benefit of marriage. In many cases, your partner will not be considered to inherit your estate unless you put it in writing.
Here are some simple ways to get a will done online
Some people use the excuse that doing a will is too complicated and too expensive for them to undertake. That's not really true. You can get a simple will in place in about 15 minutes using the WillMaker software ($55) from Nolo.com. If you don't like WillMaker, LegalZoom.com ($69) would be another way to get it done on the cheap.
If you have a complicated life -- maybe you own your own business and have built up a lot of assets or you have a blended family -- you probably won't want to go the online self-prepared route. You'll likely need to go see a lawyer who specializes in wills estates, and trusts.
But for everybody else, doing it online yourself is a viable option. If you get confused along the way as you're doing your will online, you may need to stop and see a lawyer. The reality is these services do a great job of asking interactive questions to guide you through the will completion process. But if you want to just push through for piece of mind, it is much cheaper to have a lawyer review the will you've self-prepared than to actually prepare one for you from scratch.
Lawyers may get upset with the idea of you doing a will online because they think about every disaster that's ever happened when people have self-prepared a will. But the biggest disaster is not having a will at all.
Won't my spouse automatically get everything I have?
One of the big roadblocks people put up to the idea of doing is a will is to ask, "Won't my spouse automatically get everything I have?" Not so fast. It doesn't always play out that way. The reality is that the law varies by state.
When you die without a will, or what's called "intestate" to the legal types, the state decides who gets what. For example, below is how it works in Georgia, Clark's home state. This is a quote from Nolo.com, which in addition to offering will preparation is a great free resource for all things legal:
"In Georgia, if you are married and you die without a will, what your spouse gets depends on whether or not you have living descendants -- children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren. If you don’t, then your spouse inherits all of your intestate property. If you do, they and your spouse will share your intestate property equally, except that your spouse’s share cannot be less than 1/3."
Of course, the specifics are different in every state. But in general, the state decides who gets what, often by statute done by the state legislature.
Don't leave the future of your heirs in someone else's hands! Get a will in place today.
Read more: Are POLST forms the new living wills?