Most people have heard of a will, although few people fully understand what a will is used for. If you are planning your estate, this is something essential for you to know. You may have heard that there are alternatives to a will, and this is true. However, it is recommended that everyone has a will and the alternatives are in addition to it, rather than instead of it. Learn what a will is and what it does.
What a Will Does
A will is a legal document that describes what your wishes are for after your death. Its primary functions are:
- Distributing your possessions – The most famous and essential function of your will is to determine who will receive your possessions. You can divide your estate up and choose who will receive each individual item. There are only a few limitations on how you distribute your possessions.
- Naming an executor – Your will needs to have an executor. This is someone who will ensure your wishes are carried out correctly. You can name the executor of your will in the will itself. If you do not name an executor, the courts will assign one instead, which will lengthen the probate process.
- Naming a guardian for your children – If you have children who are still minors, you need to designate who will become their guardian. You should also designate who would become the guardian in the event that both you and your spouse die at the same time.
Many people do not realize that a will does more than simply designate who receives their estate. These other legal matters make it important to have one.
What a Will Does Not Do
It is important to know what your will cannot do. The biggest misconception is that a will can provide funeral instructions. A will cannot do this, although it can bring attention to a separate document that outlines your funeral instructions. This will ensure that your executor knows about it.
A will also cannot set conditions on your possessions. For example, if you wanted to leave your granddaughter college tuition, but only until she has finished college, your will would not be able to do that. You may want to consider setting up a trust instead, which can place any number and kind of conditions on your possessions that you desire.
The first step in setting up your will is speaking with a will lawyer. A legal professional will be able to help you with every step in the process.