If you own property and assets, you may want to have a will. That way you, rather than your state government, can decide who gets your property and assets when you die. In most cases, wills are written legal documents, but some states do recognize other types of wills. The legal requirements of each state can vary, so it's essential that your will is drafted and executed properly.
A Will Must Meet All Legal Requirements
Most wills are formal documents that instruct how money and property should be distributed to each person named as an heir. For a will to be valid, you usually need to have one or two people witness you signing the will and then sign it themselves. In some states, however, wills that are handwritten or simply spoken can be legally enforceable, too. Video wills are increasing in popularity but, given that this is a relatively new development, your state's law may not recognize a video as a legal will.
Your Will Does More than Name Heirs
The main reason for having a will is to allocate your property to heirs in any way you like. But there are other things you can include such as funeral arrangements, legal guardians for your minor children, and who should serve as executor of your will or trustee of any trusts you create.
A Will Prevents Intestate Succession
When you die without a will, state laws known as "intestate succession laws" will decide which family members will inherit your estate and in what proportion. In most states, your spouse and children take priority under intestate succession. If you want other people to inherit some of your property, or if you want to leave everything to your spouse and children, but in different proportions than your state's law provides for, a will is one of the best ways to ensure that the state won't make that decision for you.
A Will May Eliminate Family Conflict
The division of an estate after death comes with many emotions. The slightest differences can result in hurt feeling and recriminations. As divorce becomes more complex and blended families more common, dividing assets has become even more complicated. A typical situation is when you're in a second marriage and have children from your first marriage. In this case, allocating your property purposefully between your second spouse and your children can give you peace of mind and prevent your family from fighting over your possessions.
A Trusts and Estates Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding creation of a will is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a trusts and estates lawyer.