You Need a Will

Written by Jim Worthington on September 19, 2022

Having a will is vital to protect your family. We’ve learned that Anne Heche died without a will, which has already led to a court fight between the father of her minor son and her 20 year-old son.

The laws vary from state to state but generally, when someone dies without a will, their spouse has a preference to administer their estate. When there is no spouse, the adult children share the responsibility. That’s the issue in Anne Heche’s case. Her 20-year-old son is an adult and has the right to serve, but her ex is the father  of their 13-year-old son and has concerns. Without knowing more, it’s impossible to say who should win. Let’s face it: some 20-year-olds are more mature than some 50-year-olds.

The problem is that the law treats all adults equally. It gives the 20-year-old the same right to administer an estate as either a 50-year-old executive or a 50-year-old ne’er do well. The law paints with a broad brush and doesn’t distinguish between people with different abilities to handle the responsibility of an estate.

That’s why it’s important to work with an experienced lawyer. An experienced lawyer knows how to have a conversation that discerns who is the best person to take on the job of administering an estate. Sometimes, the best person is actually a bank or trust company. A lawyer whose practice focuses on this area knows how to recommend the best person or company for the job.

An experienced lawyer can also recommend how to protect a minor child’s inheritance. Using the Heche family’s circumstances, if the 13-year-old were either a Kentucky or North Carolina resident (the two states where I practice), he would inherit his full share of the estate at age 18—no matter how many millions it was and no matter how mature (or immature) he was.

That’s because the law again paints with a broad brush and doesn’t distinguish between young adults who can handle an inheritance and ones who cannot. An experienced lawyer knows the questions to ask to find out and how to protect the young persons from their own self.

In conclusion, having a will makes things much easier for the surviving family. For parents of minor children, it is so important that if you don’t have one, you should make it an urgent project. For the rest of us, it just simply makes sense and is a courteous thing to do for your family.