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What is a will?

Written By: Mary Kelly on October 24, 2011 One Comment

What is a will? A will is a set of instructions directing when and how affairs should be managed in the event of a death.  It also directs who makes the decisions and to whom property is awarded.  A will can also be used to name a guardian for minor or disabled children.

Who needs a will? If you have any property at all, you need a will.  A car counts as property.  Your clothes are property.  I think if you are old enough to vote, you need a will.

Where can I go to do a will?  I like using estate planning attorneys for wills and trusts.  If there is any ambiguity in your will, or if someone can say that the will is defective (such as they were left out), the estate gets tied up in the court system.  This is the problem with the cookie cutter do-it-yourself will-making kits.  If the will is contested, the lawyers are going to get involved.  That costs money and time as then the lawyers and the courts try to figure out what you intended.  Doing a will right pays for itself.

What happens if I don’t have a will?  Then you die “intestate.”  When this happens, the state’s laws and courts decide who is entitled to what, who has the authority to be the personal representative, and where the property goes.  Administering an intestate estate is complicated and requires the involvement of the court system as they sort out all possible heirs to the estate.  (This is bad.)  You can find out where your stuff goes for your particular state at www.mystatewill.com if you die without a will.  This does not consider the costs of the process.

What is probate?  Probate is the legal process that is use to transfer title of property from the decedent to the designated people (named in the will) or heirs (if there is no will).  All wills and intestate estates must be probated.  A long probate is costly.

Bottom line:  Get a will!  It saves countless hours of hassle and money for the people you leave behind.  You worked for your assets, and you should make sure your wishes are carried out.  Make sure YOU control where your wealth goes, not the court system.

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One Response to “What is a will?”

  1. Loretta says on: 24 October 2011 at 9:02 pm

    You are so so so right on with this advice Mary!!
    A little time now saves so much time later.

    Bottom Line: Get a will!

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