A Last Will and Testament states what will happen to your assets after death. This includes, but is not limited to, your estate, property, possessions, money and children. The consequences of not having a will are quite serious; the government will divide your property, regardless of your intended wishes.
You worked hard to earn what you have—your home, car, bank account—shouldn’t you express how it will be distributed after your death? Without a will, your wishes will be irrelevant, and the state will decide how to distribute your estate. Precious heirlooms, that you wanted to give to a friend upon your death, will be sold at auctions and the money will go to the government. Drafting a Last Will ensures your estate is handled according to your preference.
List your beneficiaries
Your beneficiaries are the people you want to leave your property to. You can also choose how you want your property divided amongst your beneficiaries.
Appoint an Executor of your Last Will
An Executor is the person who you chose to administer your estate. They are responsible for collecting the assets of the estate, paying any debts of the estate, paying state and federal taxes and then distributing the assets of the estate in accordance with the direction of the Will. When selecting your Executor ensure you select someone you trust and will be able to handle your financial matter prudently.
Appoint an Alternative Executor
The Alternative Executor will assume all responsibility for administering your estate if the Executor that you had selected is unwilling or unable to act or continue to act.
All your children must be listed
In your will you must list every child, even if you wish to state that the child will receive no part of your estate. In most jurisdictions, if you don’t name all of your heirs, they or their legal guardian(s) will have the right to contest your will.
All states (besides Vermont, which requires three) require two witnesses to sign a last will. Keep in mind that some states such as California, witnesses are not allowed gifts from the will as it creates a presumption that the gift was given under duress.