A will is the first document most people think of when they start to consider their mortality. Everyone should have a will, irrespective of whether you decide to have a complete Estate Plan prepared. A will, or more formally your Last Will and Testament, is the document which disposes of your assets at death.
A will is a simple legal document in which you name your beneficiaries; those who will receive your property after you die. It allows you to itemize specific property and allocate it to those who you feel would benefit from receiving it.
While a will is better than having nothing in place, it does not protect your estate from being probated.
Protect your children
As well as being the tool to distribute your assets, a will has another very important purpose if you have young children. Your will is the document which names a guardian to raise your children should both parents pass away, or be otherwise unable to take care of them. This is an often overlooked benefit of creating a will; the importance of which should not be underestimated.
Avoid probate with a Living Trust
Having a Last Will & Testament is far better than having made no provision at all. But, unlike the more extensive Estate Plan, a standard will doesn't protect your estate from probate. All property left via a will most likely will go through probate, unless exempt under state law. Probate is a time consuming, expensive and very public court process, in addition to causing a burden to those you leave behind.
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