We all hear that everyone should have a Will, but why? And what happens if you don’t?
A Last Will and Testament is a legal document which sets forth how your assets will be distributed upon your death. By executing a Will, you ensure that your beneficiaries inherit from you, in the amounts you want and in the ways you want. For example, you may wish to leave a certain amount of money to your grandchildren, with the balance of your estate passing to your children. You may also want to specify that assets should be held in a trust until your beneficiaries reach a certain age, such as 18 or 25. The only way to do so is by creating a Last Will and Testament.
If you do not have a Will, your estate will be distributed as follows: $50,000 and one-half of the balance of your assets will be given to your spouse. The other one-half of your assets will be given to your children. If your spouse has predeceased you, all of your assets will be given to your children. If you don’t have children, your spouse will inherit your entire estate. If you do not have a spouse or children, your parents will be the beneficiaries of your estate, followed by your siblings if your parents have predeceased you.
The law sets out this very specific order as to how your assets will be distributed if you do not have a Will. This may be very different from your actual wishes. That is why having a Will is so important. Executing a Last Will and Testament allows you to make gifts to whomever you see fit. Whether it is a relative, friend or charitable organization, you may bequeath your assets however you choose.
Keep in mind the following requirements and procedures involved in executing a Last Will and Testament:
- All Wills must be in writing.
- You must initial every page of your Will.
- The Will must be signed in the presence of at least two witnesses, who must also sign the Will.
- The testator (the person making the Will) must declare before the witnesses that the document he or she is signing is his or her Will.
- The witnesses must sign an affidavit stating that the Will was validly executed. This avoids having to call your witnesses into Court when your Will is admitted for probate.