Do I need a Will?

Most people understand that a purpose of having a will is to designate the disposition of their property when they pass away.  This is an important function of a will.  The property of an individual that passes away without a will is distributed to relatives according to an order set out by State law.  This may, or may not, be the manner in which the person want their property distributed. No provision is made for any distribution to charities, churches, step-children, or non-relatives. Likewise, no consideration is given to which relatives may have the greater need for the property.

With a will, an individual can determine in advance the individuals that will inherit their property, as well as the amount of property that each person will received.

Moreover, where a person owns property that is controlled by a title or signature documents, such as real estate or bank accounts, some type of legal authority is required to transfer the property upon the owner’s death.  For example, in order to sell real estate, relatives of a deceased person will need some means of proving their right to inherit the property. Frequently  this involves obtaining an order from the Probate Court showing the disposition of the deceased property. This can be accomplished easier with a will.

This is not, however, the only reason for a Will. Wills serve other valid purposes.

One important function of a will is to name the individual that will be authorized to act on behalf of your estate in finalizing your affairs.  While you may have several individuals that are capable of serving as the administrator of your estate, there may be disagreement among them as to which is the most capable.

Likewise, a will can designate what type of administration your estate will have, either dependent or independent. With an independent estate, much less activity is required in Court. Your estate can pass through the Probate court with minimal costs and time.

If you have minor children, you will can designate whom you desire to handle the property that they inherit.  Your will can also establish a trust to hold property for their benefit. The will can set forth not only the trustee, but also the terms for the handling of the trust property.

Thank you for your interest in these articles. Please remember that these articles are designed to provide general legal information and may not apply to specific legal situations. Legal matters can be complicated by issues outside of the scope of our articles. Publishing these articles does not constitute legal advice on the part of Davis McCown, Attorney at Law. Neither review of any article, nor use of the information provided, constitutes an attorney/client relationship. It is recommended that all estate planning documents and decisions be discussed with a qualified attorney.