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Wills and Estates
Do you need a Will?
To understand why you need a will it is important to understand what a Will is and what it will accomplish for your estate.
This is often a difficult matter for many to deal with and many don’t do the due diligence to properly prepare Wills and Estates. In a will, a person or “testator” expresses, in writing, what he (or she) wants done with his property after he dies. Most states require wills to be signed by the testator and witnessed by two people. “Probate” is a court proceeding in which final debts are settled and legal title to property is formally passed from the deceased person or “decedent” to his heirs. Probate proceedings take place in the probate court or surrogate court in the county of the decedent’s legal residence at the time of his death. If a person dies “intestate,” meaning “without a will,” state law determines how to distribute his property. We feel that most people would prefer to make the decision as to how their life’s savings or personal property should be distributed. We are here to assist in ensuring your wishes are carried out. These matters can also include Living Wills. Living wills, advanced health-care directives or durable power of attorney for health-care are fairly new to estate planning. In essence, it’s a directive to the people you select to carry out your medical treatment decisions if you’re not able to do so for yourself. In most cases, you’ll be permanently unconscious, in a coma or other state where you can’t communicate your decisions. This document speaks for you through your health care proxy. The living will expresses your general desires about using procedures to sustain your live or prolong the process of dying. It can also indicate how you feel about specific medical treatments. The language in the will should be specific and not general, ambiguous terms unless they’re defined in your will.
A will is legal device that conveys your wishes after death in regard to your assets and other personal matters. It will legally communicate to whom and how your assets are distributed. When a person dies without a will, a court will often decide who and how your assets are disbursed.
The laws that govern how an estate are distributed are called intestacy laws and vary considerably from state to state. Typically, assets are divided between a deceased’s spouse and children. If the person does not have a spouse or children, the state will look to blood relatives to receive the assets. Once again, these laws vary from state and are often complicated. Many people will attempt to create their own will, but it may not conform to the law of the state. It is important to review any will with an attorney to make sure your family is protected after your death.
One of the most important functions of a will is not assets but the determination of guardianship of any young children that a person may have at the time of their death. A will can specifically direct guardianship and special directions to these guardians in regard to minor children.
It is very important to keep your will current and note any specific assets that may have changed such as pension plans, homes, or property.