Your last will and testament is the legal document that explains the distribution of your personal property and can name guardians for your minor children. The last will allows for distribution of your assets according to your wishes, in a process known as probate. Probate is complicated legal process where a court verifies the validity of the will before any of the assets can be distributed to the beneficiaries. A last will and testament has three main purposes:
Defines How to Distribute Your Assets
A last will and testament articulates how to distribute any assets and personal property not in trust. Many people have collectibles, family heirlooms, weapons, and other valuables they would like to distribute to their heirs. Without a will, the court may control the distribution or can order the sale of those items for distribution to heirs.
Names a Guardian for Minor Children
A will also names guardianship over your minor children in the event of an untimely death. Without a last will, the court decides the guardianship over your children and determines how they will be taken care of and who will take care of them. To avoid a potentially devastating situation, parents should designate someone they know and trust to take care of their children.
Appoints a Personal Representative
A main component of the last will is the election of a personal representative (your executor). The sole job of the personal representative is to follow your wishes through administration of the will. Without a will, the court names a representative for you. It is a common misconception that items distributed according to a last will and testament avoid probate; however, the will is merely admitted to probate for court supervised administration according to the terms of the will.
After any life changing event, you should update your will to reflect your wishes accordingly.