Recently, Hollywood star Chadwick Boseman passed away from cancer. It was shocking to everyone in Pennsylvania and elsewhere that he died so young. Like many Americans, Boseman had no will. Without documents outlining his wishes about his estate, his widow has had to go to probate court. When people die intestate, it can really complicate things for the people they leave behind.

Reasons to make an estate plan

When people die intestate, the court decides what to do with their assets. This is all decided by-laws at the state level. This means that a judge is ultimately deciding who will get what. Often, people the decedent wanted to include in the distribution of assets will be left out when this happens.

In Boseman’s case, his widow has asked to be named as an administrator of his estate. If Boseman had left a will, he would have been able to designate an executor of his choice. Now, it will be up to the court to approve his widow’s petition or not. Going to probate court can take much longer and cause more stress than leaving an estate plan.

Even when people leave an estate plan, sometimes it’s too confusing and the court must still provide interpretations. For example, when Aretha Franklin passed away, three separate wills were found. One included handwriting that was hard to interpret. Other copies didn’t address all of the assets in her estate. These are both reasons that a court might decide not to honor a will.

Every adult should have a will. It’s the foundational document for any estate plan. It allows people to decide how to distribute their assets, nominate a person to oversee the process and designate a guardian for any minor children.