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What Is A Will And Why Do I Need One?

A Will is the written declaration of a person’s intentions regarding what will happen to their property upon their death. A Will governs and distributes only probate property. It does not have any effect on non-probate property such as life insurance policies, retirement accounts and property held in joint tenancy.

In addition to disposing of property, a Will; (1) names an executor, which is the person who will handle the financial affairs of the estate, (2) can name guardians for minor children, (3) establish a testamentary trust, and (4) waive expensive surety costs. A Will is only effective upon death and not before. Therefore, a person is free to amend or revoke their Will at any time prior to death.

Legal formalities must be observed in order for the Will to be valid and enforceable. Many Wills prepared and signed without professional assistance may be wholly ineffective or may otherwise have deficiencies.

A properly drafted and executed Will gives a person the peace of mind of knowing that their property will be disposed of according their wishes. In addition, a will eases the pressure on surviving loved ones. The Will gives a person the opportunity to clearly state how they would like their affairs handled and therefore, removes the guesswork for those left behind.
An effective Will can do the following:

  • Clearly state who will receive specific assets upon a person’s death
  • Make gifts to individuals or entities such as charities
  • Take advantage of tax-saving options
  • Choose a personal representative who will handle the financial affairs of the estate
  • Choose a guardian for minor children
  • Delay the distribution of a child’s share of the estate to him or her until a later time when he or she is better able to manage wealth
    otherwise, the child will receive his or her full inheritance at age 18 after having been held in probate
  • Reduce certain administrative problems and costs
  • Provide for special administration of unique assets such as business interests
  • Reduce the potential for intra-family conflict
  • Make a final statement to your family