What is a will is something that I get asked a lot. People generally know that its something that distributes your assets after you die. However, there are some other things that a will can do, and there are some things that a will cannot do.
A will covers you in one circumstance – after you die. This is the only time your will comes into effect.
A will does a couple of things, and these are important things. If you don’t have a will, then a judge will some of these decisions, and the state will make some these decisions by establishing rules for what happens for people who don’t have a will.
Names the Personal Responsible for Administering Your Estate
Names the person in charge of administering your estate. Administering your estate means three things – (1) gathering all assets, gathering and paying off, pay off all your debts, and distribute your assets according to the terms of your will.
Names the Long Term Guardian For Minor Children
If you have kids under 18, then your will names the person who will be long term guardian of your children. If something happens to you and your spouse or just you if you’re a single parent. Who is going to step into the parental role? Who is going to take care of your children?
A will lets you name that person. Other people can’t come in and challenge your choice. As long as you do it in the right way, then your choice will be the long-term guardian. If you don’t have a will, then a judge will choose for you.
And I always talk about this in my client meetings. Try to imagine that person in your family that looks good on paper, but is the last the person you would want to raise your children long term. A judge will make the decision based on the information they have.
So it’s essential to have a will so you can choose who is going to care for your children and not someone else.
Names the Beneficiaries of Your Estate
The third thing that a will does is tell the world where you want your stuff to go. So if you want your stuff to go somewhere other than what the state sets out, then you need to have a will. If you don’t have a will, then the states distribution schedule will determine where your stuff goes. For many people, this is not what they want to do. They may want to give something to someone who is not a lineal descendant, and you can’t do this if you don’t have a will.
So that’s what a will does. It’s a foundational piece of your estate plan and its something that everyone should have. So if you don’t have one, then it is something that you should think about getting.
If you need estate planning, we should talk. The easiest way to do that is to click the link below and choose a date and time that work for you (over the phone or in-person).