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When do I need a will?

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Updated: 4/13/2007 6:35 pm
If you don't provide for your estate by making a will or a living trust, your estate will be distributed according to state law. Generally, under State law, all community property will go to your spouse, and all separate property will be split between your spouse and your children. If you have no spouse or children, then your property will generally go to your closest relatives. Having all your property go to your spouse will result in estate taxes if your net assets exceed six hundred twenty-five thousand dollars. So if your net assets are more than six hundred seventy-five thousand dollars you should consider making a trust which will allow tax planning and reduce your estate's tax liability. Having some or all of your property go directly to minor children can create several serious problems. The court will usually require all assets inherited by minors to be placed in a blocked account until they are 18 years old. To sell the family house or make any other change will require a court order. Many investing options, such as the stock market, will not be allowed by the court. And many people do not feel comfortable having their children receive their inheritance at age 18 - a little more maturity is preferred. If you have minor children, you might consider making a will with a testamentary trust, or making a living trust. Preparing these documents also allows you to leave money to charities and name your choice of guardian for your children. For more information about whether you need a will or living trust, please contact an attorney.
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