You may have heard that it is important to make a will. And
it’s true -- for many people having a will is a good idea. To help you figure
out whether a will is right for you, learn about these six things that you can
do with a will.
Six Things That You Can Do With a Will
who gets your stuff when you die. The most common and simple reason to make
a will is to decide who will get your property when you die. Without a will (or
other plan, like a living trust),
your state laws determine how your property will be distributed -- usually to
your closest relatives, like your spouse, children or parents. Learn more about what happens
if you die without a will.
- Name an executor.
After you die, someone needs to help wrap up your estate. You can use your will
to name an executor (or personal representative, in some states) to take on this
task. Without a will, a court will
appoint someone to do this job. Learn more about naming an executor with the Executor
FAQ and If
There is No Will, Who’s the Executor?
- Name a
guardian to take care of your children. A will is the only place to
nominate a guardian to care for your children.
If you don’t need a will for any other reason, but you have minor children
for whom you want to name guardians, you should make a will. If you die without
a will, a court will decide who should care for your kids. Learn more about a Guardianship
for Your Children.
- Name a property
manager to take care of you children’s property. Property left to children, either by you or
anyone else, must be managed by an adult. When you leave property to your
children (through a will, trust, or life insurance or other beneficiary designation)
you can leave instructions about how that property should be managed – usually,
either through a trust or through UTMA.
Separately, you can use your will to name a property manager who will
take care of any property that is left without a named guardian. Learn
more about Leaving an Inheritance for Children.
- Provide a
caretaker for your pet. You can use your will to name a trusted caretaker
for your pet. You can also leave money to that person to help him or her care
for your pet. Using a will isn’t the only way to plan for your pet’s care, but
it is usually the simplest option. Learn
more about Estate
Planning for Pets.
- Provide a
backup for your living trust or other estate plan. If you think you don’t
need a will because you have a living trust and don’t need to name guardians
for children or pets, think again – you might want to make a back-up will. A back up will provides a catch-all for any property
that isn’t taken care of by your living trust or other estate planning
device. For example, it will take care
of any property that you forget to transfer into your living trust, that you
acquire after you make your living trust, or that is transferred incorrectly to your
living trust. Learn more about Living Trusts.
Does Everyone Need a Will?
For most people, having a will is a good idea. But having a will isn’t right for everyone. For example, you may not need a will if:
- you don’t have much property
- don’t have kids, and
- you really understand –and agree with -- how your
state will distribute your property when you die.
Learn more about How
an Estate is Settled If There is No Will.
How Do I Make a Will?
You can make a will yourself, or you can have a lawyer make
one for you. After the will is made, you
sign and two witnesses sign it to make it legal. Learn details about How to Write
a Will. And learn much more about
wills on the Wills
section of Nolo.com.