What Is A Will

In simple terms, a will is a legal document that dictates how you want your assets to be distributed after you die. A will includes specific directions on how you wish your estate to be distributed after your death, including provisions for any tangible personal property that you may own – jewelry, furniture, and the like, as well as naming guardians for any minor children. It also indicates what sources will be used to pay any estate taxes and debts that are due, and it names an executor who will be responsible for the settlement of your estate. It ends with your signature, the signatures of the required number of witnesses, and typically a notary public’s oath about the validity of the various signatures.


Why Do I
Need A Will

A will gives you choices about who will receive what you own when you pass away.
In common language, a will is a list of your decisions about what should happen to your stuff when you die.
I know writing a will is hard. You have to think about your mortality and how the world could possibly continue without you. My husband never had one until the day our first son was born. It protects the legacy you want to leave for your family.

Virtually every person— married, divorced, single, childless, parent, in good health, in bad health— should have a will for the simple reason that without one, you cannot determine who should receive your property. Each state has a default plan for how property must be distributed if you die without a will, with the default (and mandatory) scheme depending on your marital status, whether you have children, if you have any living parents or siblings, and other criteria. Furthermore, even if you die with no living relatives, the state will not permit distributions to a friend, a favorite charity, or any non-related person. Instead, the property will most likely end up going to the state.


What Is Probate

If you die with a will in place, the executor named in the will typically presents the will to the local clerk of court and asks the court to authorize the executor’s administration of the estate. This process of presenting the will and administering the estate is called the “probate” process. The probate process generally is fairly informal – the executor presents the will, is authorized to administer the estate, determines the beneficiaries and creditors entitled to the money or other property, makes the distributions, files any tax or probate documents with the various government entities, and closes the estate, all within the proscribed and monitored timeframe. If the executor sees potential problems with the will or foresees a will contest, he or she may request a more formal process, but this rarely is needed.

If you die without a will – known as intestate— the local court must monitor the estate’s administration even more closely. This is because the court—not a will—provides all of the authority to act. The administration and closing of the estate generally requires more court involvement, often more publicity, and definitely more red tape.

What Should You Do Now

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