What a Will Can and Cannot Do

A Last Will and Testament is a legal document which designates someone to take possession of everything you own when you die. There are different requirements for a valid will in different states but generally speaking the following are typically required:

  • The Will must be in writing
  • The signing of the Will must be witnesses by two people who also sign the Will as witnesses
  • The person creating the Will must be competent to understand the provisions of the document

Designate a Personal Representative
A will usually designates a personal representative to carry out the provisions of the will. Some states require a personal representative and if there is no one named in the will, the court will appoint an appropriate person to serve in that capacity.

Direct Sale or Gift of Property
A will can leave property such as a house, a cabin or a farm to a specific person or to an organization. It can also require a personal representative to sell property and also direct how the proceeds from the sale will be distributed.

A Will Cannot Change Beneficiary Designations
A Will cannot give property which is otherwise controlled by beneficiary designation documents.   For example, most pensions and retirement accounts require beneficiary designations and those accounts will pass according to the beneficiary designation. They will not be impacted by language in the Will.   Life Insurance works the same way. The proceeds from life insurance policies are not gifted through a Will. They are typically provided for in the beneficiary documents required by the insurance company.

Getting Legal Help
An Estate Planning Attorney can help you understand how best to preserve your assets and create a strategic estate plan for providing for those you love.   Contact us today to learn more.

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