Estate Planning, Collaborative Family Law & Mediation

Common Questions About Wills (Part 2)

What instructions can I provide in my Will?

You can provide little instruction or very detailed instructions in your Will. Usually, though, a Will provides instructions for the care of any children and also names a “personal representative” to manage and distribute your estate after you die. The personal representative, which can also be a legal entity, gathers your property, pays any debts and taxes, and distributes the balance of your estate to the people or organizations you have named in your Will.

Can I refuse to provide for some members of my family in my Will?

Specifically excluding a person from inheriting part of your estate is called “disinheriting.” A married person cannot disinherit a spouse without the spouse’s consent. You may specifically exclude or “disinherit” a child as long as you are clear about it in the Will so that the disinheritance does not appear to be a mistake.

What happens to life insurance and retirement benefits?

If you have a Will, certain property or benefits may be distributed to your spouse or others even though it is not mentioned in the Will. Typically, life insurance, retirement benefits, joint tenancy property, and property in a “living trust” are distributed directly to the beneficiaries named in the policy, plan, or trust. If you own certain property specifically as a “joint tenant” with others, that property will go directly to the other joint tenants who are alive after your death, without regard to how you have distributed your estate in a Will.

Does having a Will help avoid probate?

Not necessarily. Probate is a court proceeding that manages and settles your estate. If there is property to be administered or taxes to be paid, the existence of a Will does not necessarily avoid probate nor does it increase the expense of the probate process. If all of your property is held jointly or in trust, however, probate may not be necessary after your death. If you are concerned about probate, we can help you decide the best plan for your circumstances. determine who receives the property if there is no valid Will.

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