Last Will and Testament
Last Will and Testament (Traditional “Will”)
The “Last Will and Testament” is the more commonly understood will in which property is generally disposed of. The last will allows for distribution according to your wishes, in a process known as probate. Probate is the procedure through which a court verifies the validity of the will, and for a small estate takes approximately 6 months to complete. It is a common misconception that items distributed according to a will avoid probate; however, the will is merely admitted to probate for court supervised administration according to the will’s terms. The last will and testament is where you delegate:
1) how to distribute any assets not in trust
2) guardianship over your children in the event of death
3) the representative charged with distributing assets at death.
Many people have collectibles, family heirlooms, weapons, and other valuables they would like to distribute. Without a will, the court may distribute those items or order their sale for distribution to heirs. Married couples are not immune to challenges either; parents, siblings, and children may look to claim assets not disposed of through a will. After any life changing event, you should update your will to reflect your wishes accordingly. Without a last will, the court also decides the guardianship over your children and determines how they will be taken care of. To sidestep a potentially detrimental situation, parents should designate someone they know and trust to take care of their children. A main component of the last will is the election of a representative (your executor, or personal representative), the representative’s sole job is to enact your wishes through administration of the will. Without a will, the court names a representative for you.
Is a last will and testament really necessary?
A last will is necessary in every stage of adult life, and should reflect your wishes so there will be no question of intent following your death. The last will and testament specifies the person who takes care of your estate in probate, and will prevent your life’s work from being distributed by a court that lacks knowledge of your wishes. Without a will, your family may be forced to await a court ordered representative at a time when the family will want to be relieved from any unnecessary burden.