Most people already have a general knowledge about what a will does. However, you may not know all of the specifics. A will is a written legal instrument in which a person leaves instructions on how to dispose of his estate after he dies. It must contain at least one of three essential elements: 1) a declaration as to how property should be disposed, 2) an appointment of an executor, or 3) an appointment of a guardian for children. It cannot contain only negative language, such as “Jim can’t have anything.” It is only effective after death. And finally, it must be subject to change and be revocable during life.

A will is the simplest estate planning device. The primary goal of most parents is to ensure their children are cared for if one or both parents were to die. A will enables parents to handle this situation. Others simply don’t want to deal with the time and cost associated with establishing an extensive estate plan. A will allows them to handle the distribution of property as they see fit with as little hassle now as possible.

Reasons for Having a Will

There are many reasons why you should create a will, including the following.

Dispose of Property

A will allows you to choose how your assets are distributed when you die. You can make gifts of specific items to whomever or whatever organization you choose. If you die without a will your property will be distributed according to intestate laws, which will not give you the same control.

Reduce Estate Taxes

By having a will you can take advantage of reducing or avoiding various state and federal taxes and administration expenses.

Appoint Fiduciaries

A will allows you to name the executor of your estate who will be responsible for distributing your assets. You can also designate who will be guardian of your children who may still be minors as well as the trustee of any trust created in the will.

Limitations of a Will

The simplicity of a will does leave it with some limitations. For instance, there are certain types of property that you cannot leave by a will. This applies to property that you have already agreed to transfer by other means, including:

  • Property involved in a contract
  • Property transferred into a living trust
  • Property held in joint tenancy
  • Proceeds of a life insurance policy with a named beneficiary
  • Money in a pension plan, individual retirement account, or any other retirement plan with a named beneficiary
  • Money in a pay on death bank account or stocks in a transfer on death account with a named beneficiary

If you have these types of assets you may want to consider a more robust estate plan in addition to a will.

Dying Without a Will

In the absence of a will a judge determines who will care for your children, who will distribute your property, and how the property will be distributed, according to the intestate laws of your state. The property will first go to a spouse and children. If you aren’t married and don’t have children your property will go to your next closest relatives. If no relatives qualify to inherit your property then it will go to the state.

If you desire to distribute any of your property to friends or others you need a will. Intestate laws will not do this. If you’re living with somebody who you’re not married to that person will not receive your property through intestate laws. Additionally, if you have minor children you will leave no guide as to who you want to raise them. Dying without a will and leaving all of these issues to be determined by intestate laws is not in your best interest.

If you would like to speak to a lawyer about creating a will or if you would like more information Contact Sharkey Law today.