Last Will and Testament – what is it and why do you need it?

By creating your Last Will and Testament (also: Will, Will and Testament, Last Will) you organize your estate after your death. Thanks to this legal document you may decide who will receive what and who will become a guardian of your minor children/pets (if you have ones). You may give instructions, provide funds for certain things. It is very important to prepare such a document in the case of people over 18, especially in the case of those who have minor children. A Last Will and Testament is a way to avoid conflicts and misunderstandings concerning your belongings and when it comes to children, it makes clear who and how will be raising them in case you die.

How to write it?

You can either visit a lawyer or use an online software (for example LawDepot) to fill the Last Will and Testament form. It is not so difficult as it may seem, you just should be prepared to give information about:

  • The Testator/ The Testatrix (for women) – a person who wants to distribute his/her property after death – so it is you.
  • A Beneficiary – this is a person/organization to whom your property will go. If you do not decide about it on your own, it will be done by court who uses a certain formula. All your belongings will be just divided between your relatives. So as to avoid conflicts, it is advisable to make it organized in advance.
  • An Executor – this is a person who will be your personal representative after your death. His/her task will be to administer your Will (in a way you predetermined). You should choose your executor carefully, since he definitely must be a reliable and trustworthy person.
  • Custody of your children/pets – here you must choose a guardian and you can provide funds for your children or pets.

If your Last Will is finished, you have to check it for any errors and make sure whether everything has been expressed according to your wish. You must also remember about signing it properly. How it should be done depends on the state you live in, so make sure you have done it according to your state’s specific law.

Not all of your property can be given away in your Last Will

You can give almost everything you own to people or organizations you have chosen, yet you should know that these usually cannot be included in your Last Will:

  • Life insurance
  • 401(k) plan assets
  • Pension plan assets
  • Retirement plan assets
  • Annuities
  • Property held in a trust
  • Matrimonial home held jointly

Remember about updating

Do not forget about reviewing your Last Will and making sure its conditions are still valid. It is a very important document and it needs to be checked every time your life situation changes. Changes such as divorce, second marriage, someone’s death or other significant events can influence your wish and you may want to make some necessary updates.