“Wills speak at the time of death.” This is a very old saying, but still so applicable today! Your will is your voice after you die. Your last will and testament is a legal document in which you can express how you want your property to be distributed after your death, who you want to be in charge of said distribution and who will take care of your kids. In a will, you can also provide for your pets, your great grandmother’s silverware, your coin collection, your antiques and anything else you want to end in a certain person’s possession.
If you die without a will, you are said to have died intestate. In that case, the law of the state in which your property is located will determine the way your property will be distributed after your death, regardless of what your wishes were. If you want to have a word on who is going to get what from the property you leave behind, you must have a will. A simple will is the only way you can control what is going to happen with all your affairs after you die.
If you die intestate and you do not have children, your property will be transferred to your parents. If your parents have predeceased you, then the property will be passed on to your siblings, even if you haven’t heard from them in years. Your spouse or domestic partner will only get the small portion of your property that the law reserves for him or her. In the absence of a will, spouses and/or domestic partners, after a life of companionship, can be left with very little. They can even lose their home, if you do die intestate.
Dying without a will closes the doors to all your friends from inheriting from you, regardless of how dear they may be to you. You will not have the choice of leaving money to your favorite charity, cause, or church. The state will decide who will take care of your children. In brief, what you think, what you want, or what your opinions are regarding what happens with all your things after you die will be totally discounted, when you die without a will. You are left out of the decision-making process altogether.
Another advantage of having a will is that in it you can designate an “executor,” a personal representative that will take charge of winding up all your financial affairs. This person, obviously someone you trust, will take your will to probate court. The probate court will determine the validity of your last will. It will determine if your will complies with all the law requirements in your state. If the court finds that your will is valid, your will is probated. That is, everything you stated in your will take place accordingly to your instructions. The court will appoint the person you chose to be your personal representative. The rest of the process will be handled by the personal representative under the court’s supervision.
Your personal representative will have your estate appraised, pay taxes accordingly, review and pay any valid debts you might have left, collect any amounts owed to you, pay your funeral expenses and distribute the remaining assets to the persons named in your will. With a will, you can truly rest in peace.