There is a difference between knowing what something is and what it does. Most people know what a will is, but many people do not understand what a will does. Wills do more than provide a list of which people get each of a deceased person’s assets. Read on to learn more about what the most popular estate planning document, the will, can do for you.
One of the most important functions of a will is that it enables the testator to dispose of the assets that they own at the time of their death in the manner of their choosing. When a person dies intestate (without a will), their property gets distributed according to state law. While the wills that many people write outline property distribution schemes that resemble what would happen under the laws of intestate succession, each person’s life is unique. The property distribution rules set forth in the law could result in your property being distributed in a way that you disapprove of.
If you have minor children, it is vitally important that you know that you can name a guardian for your children in your will. If you pass away before your children are adults, the guardian that you named in your will shall take over the care of and responsibility for your children. If the guardian named in your will has passed away, an alternate guardian will care for your children if you named an alternate guardian. The ability to name a guardian is a vitally important function of a will, and it is a good reason for families with young children to begin their estate planning as soon as they can.
If you have debt or owe taxes when you die, the contents of your estate will be used to pay your taxes and debts. You can use your will to provide instructions to your executor regarding how you would like the debts and taxes to be paid. Absent specific instructions, an executor merely has to use sound judgment in disposing of the assets in your estate. For example, if you have a car and a bank account in your estate and either would provide sufficient funds to pay the taxes you owe, you could specify in your will that you want the funds in the bank account to be used to pay the taxes and the car to be given to your daughter. Absent those instructions; the executor would be free to decide which asset to use to pay the debt.
Your will also allows you to choose an executor for your estate. An executor is the person who collects and manages the property in your estate. Your executor will use the contents of your estate to pay any debts and taxes you owe and will follow your instructions for distributing the contents of your estate to your beneficiaries. You can name someone you trust as your executor. You may also appoint one or more alternate executors who can serve in that capacity in case your first choice executor has died or is incapacitated at the time of your passing.
Now that you know what a will does, you may have decided that you would like to make one. Call Wichita attorney J. Joseph Weber at 316.265.7802, or contact us on the internet to schedule a consultation.