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The cost of not having a will

Whether just out of college, raising the kids, or planning for retirement, having a will is not just a formality, it is an essential part of managing assets.

Passing away without a will can cause a headache for surviving family members and a drawn-out legal process.

Waiting for resolution is never pleasant - and it also costs money. The average (non-millionaire) estate takes close to 9 months or a year to resolve.

Prince's death earlier this year is a good example of the complications that can occur without a will. The resolution and distribution of his assets is expected to take years.

If you do not create a plan, you do not get a say in distribution

Your filing system for personal and financial papers may make perfect sense to you but, without a will, it is up to your next of kin to find and piece those documents together. That alone is time consuming and delays distribution at the start.

Once your estate is submitted to probate, it is up to the courts to settle the matter, and California probate code may not view your family relationships the same way that you do. Failing to create a will can also lead to inter-family disputes and inequalities. When you create an estate plan, even a basic plan, you avoid many of these issues.

Not all families are the same

Leaving it to the courts assumes a strict definition of family that does not account for personal connections between certain family members. Instead, courts will look to the legal definition, which means an estranged or unpopular family member will possibly take a larger share of your assets than you would have personally wished.

Even if you agree with the distribution plan laid out by the courts, there are additional roadblocks that will make the process take time and, in turn, cost more money.

The lack of an estate plan is often inefficient and costly

When an individual dies without a will, his/her assets remain unclaimed until the court determines distribution, which can take up to a year. Although estate distribution follows clearly defined rules in California, the process takes time and, most often, an attorney to administer. Skipping a will does not simplify matters, it passes the legal burden to others.

Court hearings take time and are often contested, which leads to larger legal fees. Most people pay the fees out of their inheritance, ultimately reducing the final estate. Writing a will and declaring an executor gets the job done quickly.

It is cheaper, faster and easier if there is a will.

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