A Will is a legal document which:
- Specifies the beneficiaries who are to inherit your assets either outright or in trust.
- Names a representative (an executor or personal representative) to administer the estate, pay your debts and any taxes and then to be responsible for distributing your assets to the beneficiary or to a trustee.
- Nominates a guardian for your minor children.
While most assets held in your name alone will pass through your will, there are exceptions:
- Revocable Living Trusts: If you have formed a Revocable Living Trust during your lifetime, the assets you transferred to the trust will pass according the trust’s terms, no matter what your Will states.
- Beneficiary Designations: if you have named a beneficiary for a bank account, life insurance policy or IRA, that beneficiary will receive the account no matter what you may have said in your Will.
- Joint Ownership: Some assets can be held in more than one name. In some cases, these assets are held “jointly with a right of survivorship.” These assets pass to the surviving joint owner, no matter what the Will states.
A Will is a powerful and useful document, but it needs to be drafted with a thorough understanding of your entire estate.
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