Do You Need a Will?

Your Last Will and Testament should reflect your intentions and be tailored to your individual circumstances. A will is the official expression of your testamentary intent including how you want your assets to be distributed, by whom and to whom. While not required, under certain circumstances it may a good idea to identify your major assets in your will, such as real estate, insurance policies, bank and investment accounts, stock certificates and automobiles. Identifying assets can make it easier for your personal representative to corral assets and to be aware whether it is necessary to create an auxiliary estate if you owned real property out of state.

The Contents of a Will

You can make several different types of gifts in your will, which is often referred to as a bequest or a legacy. A specific bequest leaves an identifiable asset or amount of money to a specific person or group of people. An example of a specific bequest is to leave your house to a particular person or to give a piece of jewelry to someone. If you want to make a specific bequest of a piece of real property, the legal description of that property should be included in the Will. A general or residual bequest applies to the assets that remain after creditors’ claims are paid and specific bequests are accounted for. A general bequest leaves a percentage of your estate to a person or group of people, while a residual bequest leaves the remainder after satisfaction of creditors, specific bequests and general bequests to a person or a group of people.

A will typically names a personal representative, sometimes called an executor or executrix, who is responsible for carrying out the terms of the will. It may also be a good idea to name a backup and second backup personal representative if the initial person cannot serve for any reason. The personal representative is responsible for publishing notice, notifying creditors and beneficiaries, and paying creditors and distributing assets. The will should expressly require or waive certain requirements of the personal representative, such as filing of inventories, annual reports and obtaining a bond.

If you have minor children, you can record your wishes regarding who their guardian will be. The Court will have the ultimate power to appoint a guardian, but the wishes of a parent are a major factor in that determination.

When to Update a Will

Your will needs to be updated every time you have a major life change. Some of these are more obvious than others. If you get married or divorced, you need a new will. If you have children, you need a new will. If you acquire or sell a piece of real estate, or if you move to a new state, you need a new will. If you acquire an interest in a business, that interest needs to be accounted for in your will.

In some circumstances it is possible to make additions to a will without revoking the old will and creating a brand new one. A document called a codicil can be created which can add to or amend the terms of your will, while leaving the rest of the original will intact.

A will may be simple, or it may be complex, given the circumstances, but in all cases a will is the right way to relieve the people you love of hardship and confusion after you pass from this life.

If you would like to discuss whether you need a will, update an existing will or any other estate planning matter, call (251) 219-9706 or send an email describing your situation to adam@jarvislawfirmpc.com.

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