The Last Will and Testament is perhaps the most common tool of estate planning. A Will is simply a written document that legally establishes how your belongings will be distributed upon death. A Will can be short or long, simple or complex, depending on your needs. Our estate planning attorneys have prepared Wills that were very basic that simply stated that all assets would transfer to the surviving spouse, and others that provided detailed lists of family heirlooms and who they should go to, along with distributions into a trust for certain family or beneficiaries needing assistance managing that inheritance.
In your Will you nominate a person called an “executor” who acts upon your death to finalize your affairs and distribute your estate in accordance with your Will as your beneficiaries go through the probate process. It is especially important to have a Will that specifies guardianship of any minor children or a trustee to manage assets for any dependent/disabled adult children. In some cases, if an aging parent is dependent upon you for care, the Will should address his or her care, as well.
Even if you feel your estate is small, if you fail to have a Will it can cause problems for those you leave behind. In the event there is no Will, your estate can be distributed according to state law and this might not be to the benefit of your spouse or those you wish to have your property or the manner in which such property should be handled on their behalf. Not having a Will can also lead to family disputes over your property or who should oversee its distribution. A Will makes your intentions clear and may speed up the probate process.
Your Will should be updated each time you have a major life change. This includes the birth of children; when your children reach adulthood; addition of significant assets, including businesses you own; marriage, separation, or divorce; or a move to another state. Your loved ones should also know where your current original Will is kept and have the name and phone number of your estate planning attorney. Contact an estate planning attorney today about writing or updating your Will.