Your Last Will and Testament is one of the foundations of a sound estate plan. It’s a legal document that determines what happens to your probate property, among other things, after you pass away. Here’s what you do with it:
Appoint Your Personal Representative
Your personal representative is the person who’s in charge of representing your estate during the probate process. He or she makes sure that your final bills, debts, and taxes are paid; safeguards your property during the probate process; and ensures that your property is ultimately distributed according to the terms of your Will.
Specify Who Will Inherit Your Property
Without a Will, your probate property goes to your nearest relatives, as determined by state law. With a Will, you can leave your property to almost anyone you choose (state law specifies that your spouse is entitled to at least a minimum portion of your estate).
Specify How Your Property Will Be Distributed
In addition to stating where your property will go after your death, you use your Will to specify how your property will be distributed to your beneficiaries. For example, you can leave assets outright to your loved ones, or you can use your Will to establish trusts for your loved ones.
Nominate a Guardian for Your Children
If you have minor children, one of the most important purposes for making a Will is to nominate a guardian to care for your children in case both you and your children’s other parent pass away before your children become adults. You can also use your Will to specify how your children’s finances will be managed in the event of your untimely death.
Of course, an effective estate plan includes more than just a Will. Your estate planning attorney can help you establish a plan that works for you and your family.