If you're creating a basic estate plan, the most important document you'll need to execute is your last will and testament. Your will establishes guidelines for the dispensation of your estate assets and achieves other important things.
Here are a few things you might want to know about wills:
Wills and probate proceedings: All wills must go through the probate court process after the testator passes away. The probate court oversees the accounting of estate assets, remuneration to creditors and the distribution of the remaining assets in accordance with the guidelines contained in the will.
When no will is on file: In cases where the decedent failed to create a will or estate plan, the probate court will distribute the estate assets in accordance with state intestacy laws, which offer an automatic distribution plan. Each family member receives a predetermined amount based on his or her relation to the decedent.
Will contests: Disinherited family members who might otherwise have a valid claim on an estate under state intestacy laws might try to contest a will. A successful will contest could result in the estate being distributed according to a previous will or according to state intestacy laws.
The appointment of a representative: A will should also designate an individual, and alternates, to serve as personal representative or executor of the estate. This can be any person but is usually a trusted family member or friend who has the capacity to responsibly manage with integrity the financial and legal affairs of the estate.
Your will is the last chance you have to give something of value to your loved ones. Make sure to carefully and lawfully draft your last will and testament so all your wishes are followed to the letter after you've left this world.