What is a Will?
A will or last will testament is a legal declaration by which a person names one or more persons to manage his or her estate and provides for the distribution of his or her property at death. Basically, it’s a document that states your final wishes which goes into effect after you die but is subject to a probate court approval.
You can also use a will to:
- Name a personal representative
- Transfer your assets to beneficiaries after your death
- Name guardians for your minor children
- Provide for your pets
- Decide how debts and taxes will be paid. Wills do not offer your heirs any protection from federal estate taxes or state inheritance taxes.
- State your intentions but they are subject to a court’s administration of the will and ensures the will is valid and the property gets distributed the way the deceased wanted.
- Disclose on public record your intensions
- Cover any property that is only in your name when you die. It does not cover property held in joint tenancy or in a trust.
If you are a parent of under aged children, making a will is the single most important thing you can do to help assure your children are cared for by the people you would choose to be their guardians if anything should happen to you. Your will can designate a legal guardian to care for your children if you die before they reach their age of majority. It is one of the most difficult tasks for parents. Although difficult, it’s the most important thing you can do to ensure the well-being of your children.
Why Parents MUST Have a Will
If you’re a parent that means you have children, so you need to make sure you have the proper legal documents in place to protect your minor children or children with special needs that will need care after you are gone. We cannot stress it enough how important it is that both parents have a will that designates the legal guardian of each child.
Have you ever thought about what would happen if you and your spouse went out for the night and you were both killed in a horrible accident? Who would care for your children? Who could financially provide for them? Who would make sure they had the proper education? These are all tough questions, but questions that all parents with minor children should ask themselves.
Parents need to sit down and talk with each other and designate the guardianship and guardians of your children. This is the single most important thing you can do for them. You owe it to them.
WHAT IS PROBATE?
Probate is the legal process whereby a will is “proved” in a court and accepted as a valid public document that is the true last will and testament of the deceased. So in other words it does the following:
- It proves the deceased person’s will is valid
- It protects your heirs and beneficiaries
- It identifies and inventories the deceased property
- It has the property appraised
- It pays off debts and taxes
- It distributes the remaining property as the will directs
Typically, probate involves paperwork and court appearances by lawyers. The lawyers and court fees are paid from estate property, which would otherwise go to the people who inherit the deceased person’s property.
There are some disadvantages to probate:
- Probate can be an extremely costly manner of transferring your assets
- The process can very time consuming
- Probate court proceedings are basically inflexible