What’s A “Will”?

…and why you need one too.

A “Will” – simple person speak for “Last Will & Testament” is a legal document that expresses your wishes regarding the distribution of your property and the care of your minor children, and pets.. if applicable. Basically, it takes a lot of the guess work and legal expense out of the equation if you die, and relieves some burden from your children or whoever is left behind once you’re gone.

If you don’t have  a will in place, a court will decide how things are distributed in the event of your death. This means that your loved ones may not receive the assets you wish to leave them in the event of your death. Oh, and you want that will to be in writing; Oral wills are not widely recognized from a legal perspective.

Creating a will gives you sole discretion over the distribution of your assets. It lets you decide how your belongings – including cars, jewelry, assets of any kind, clothing, art, and so forth, should be distributed. If you have a business, you can also direct the smooth transition of that as well.

If you have minor children, a will allows you to appoint a guardian for them, and allows the guardian to receive compensation for taking care of your children. And last but not least, a will lets you direct your assets to the charity of your choice if you’re charitably inclined or in the event you need a good option for a remainder beneficiary (who will receive your assets in the event all of your family has predeceased you, unlikely… but it does happen).

Things not covered by your will:

  • Community Property
  • Proceeds from life-insurance policy payouts
  • Retirement account assets
  • Assets owned as “Joint Tenants With Rights of Survivor ship”
  • Transfer on death accounts

Basically any thing that already dictates a beneficiary won’t go through your will.

I think the most important thing a will does is provide peace for the family members you leave behind – they don’t have to try to figure out, in a time of grieving – exactly what you would have wanted, and most importantly, they won’t fight over dishes and nonsense if you have already written out who gets what.

Please ensure that the person who writes your will is a Trusts & Estate attorney, not a real estate attorney who happens to write wills on the side, but an active and practicing T & E attorney.

***I am not an attorney, nothing in this writing should be construed as legal advice. Please seek the advice of an attorney for all your legal needs***