What is a will?
Last will definition: A last will and testament is a legal document that lets you, the testator (the person making the will), designate individuals or charities to receive your property and possessions when you pass away. These individuals and charities are commonly referred to as beneficiaries in your last will. A last will also allow you to name a guardian to care for minor children. The main purpose of a will is to ensure that the testator's wishes, and not the default laws of the state, will be followed upon the testator's death.
Reasons to have a last will and testament
Appoint someone to settle your affairs. This person will also ensure that your beneficiaries receive their inheritance.
Choose who will receive your property. Specify how you'd like to transfer your property to your heirs.
Decide who you want to raise your kids. Name the right legal guardians for your children if you and your spouse can't be there.
What if I die without a will?
Dying without making a will means you'll have no say over who receives your property. State laws will decide. In some states, only 1/2 of one's assets go to the surviving spouse. Depending on your situation, the rest would go to your children, parents or close relatives. If you have minor children, a judge will decide who cares for them, and the situation may not be ideal.
Should I get a living trust instead?
Depending on where you live and the size of your estate, a living trust could be a more efficient way to distribute your assets. You can avoid going through the time and expense of a probate proceeding, in which a court reviews your will, appoints your executor and orders the distribution of your property. A living trust requires you to transfer your assets into the name of the trust after its creation. This process is often called trust funding.