3 Questions You Should Ask About Wills

People often wonder if they need a will.  A will can help minimize potential estate tax consequences and deals with personal property and real property not effectively disposed of through other means.  Other means include useful beneficiary designations, accounts/assets held as joint tenants with rights of survivorship, real estate owned as tenancy by the entireties, etc.  A will is a legal document in which you declare what you want to be done with this property and assets at the time of your death.

What happens if I die without a will?

Absent a will, your assets not effectively disposed of through other means will pass according to state law, known as intestacy.  These assets, if giving to a disabled, minor or incompetent beneficiary without a trust in place will go to a court ordered and appointed a guardian, which is time-consuming and expensive.  If you do not nominate a personal representative in your will, the court will select one and most likely will require a bond of him or her.

Do I need to create a trust under my will?

If you have a minor, disabled or spendthrift beneficiary of your estate, you can form a trust or trusts under your will to protect and provide for that individual.  You can also name a trusted individual or entity to manage those assets for the benefit of the beneficiary. Similarly, for a minor heir, you can nominate a guardian of the person for the court to appoint upon your death to care for such recipient, and the court will give deference to your wishes.

Do I need an Executor of my will?

In the will, you can name a personal representative or executor who will gather your assets not effectively disposed of through other means, pay off the debts/taxes/expenses of yours and your estate, and distribute your assets as you direct in your will.  For this personal representative, you can also waive the requirement of a bond and, if allowed by state law, reject the necessity of an accounting.