Last Will and Testament (Will)
When you think of the steps you need to take in order to protect your loved ones upon your death, you probably think of a Will, or Last Will and Testament. A Last Will and Testament is the primary tool used to distribute those assets which you own in your sole name at the time of your death. It documents your wishes, allowing you to distribute your property to family, friends, and loved ones exactly as you specify. A Will may specify whom you wish to be guardian of your minor children. Your Will names an Executor as your agent beyond the grave who will carry out your wishes.
Deciding who will carry out your wishes, and how to express those wishes, may raise questions and concerns, especially if you have unique circumstances. An experienced estate planning attorney can answer your questions and advise you regarding your particular situation.
An Estate Without a Will is Intestate
If you die without a Will, then you are “intestate” under the law. This means that your assets will be distributed to your family members (or others) according to a formula found in a state statute. Every state has its own statute regarding the distribution and administration of an intestate estate. If you are intestate, a court will appoint an administrator to oversee the distribution of your estate. This administrator could be a spouse or a family member, but it could also be a creditor of your estate.
By having a competent and experienced attorney prepare your Will, you remove doubt as to your wishes, and you provide a clear road-map for the administration of your estate.
A Will is Not a Living Will
A Will refers to a Last Will and Testament. It is not the same as a Living Will, yet both are important elements of an Estate Plan. A living will, also known as an Advance Medical Directive, does not provide for the disposition of your property upon your death. The Advance Medical Directive is a legal document that outlines your wishes regarding medical decisions in the event you become incapacitated.