Wills – Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly is a Will? 

A Will is a written document which sets forth your last wishes regarding the disposition of your assets and your responsibilities, in other words, who inherits your assets after you are gone.  A Will is only legally effective upon your death and can be revised and changed at any time until your death. A Will is an important tool to avoid the imposition of State and Federal estate taxes.  If you have a Will in place at the time of your death the administration of your estate will be much less expensive.

Can I provide for my children in a Will?

Yes.  A Will can appoint a guardian for your children and can set up trusts to govern and manage your children’s inheritance while they are under age.  It can provide for a mechanism to insure that the children receive their inheritence when it is appropriate and most beneficial to them. Absent a Will, the Court will hold your child’s inheritence but only until they are 18 years of age. Then the money will be released to them.

What happens to my assets if I have no Will?

Absent a will, your assets will be distributed to your relatives according to a State Statute.  In short, a Will is the only way for you to control what happens to your assets and perhaps those you love, after your death. Most people assume that if they die without a Will all their assets pass automatically to their surviving spouse and this is not necessarily true! If you have surviving children or parents, you spouse will not receive 100% of your estate.  If you are survived by a parent, your spouse will get the first 25% of the intestate estate, but not less than $50,000.00 nor more than $200,000.00, plus three-quarters of any balance of the intestate estate. The surviving parents equally share the remainder. If there is no surviving spouse, then the entire estate will go to your children.

Who may make a Will?

Any person who is eighteen years of age or older and who is of sound mind may make a will.  The Will must be in writing and signed by the Testator.  If it is also signed by at least two adult witness and a separate notary, it will be self proving and will be easily admitted to probate.

What do the terms used in a Will stand for?

The following terms are utilized in a Will:

  • Testator:  The person making the Will.
  • Executor:  A Person who is empowered to carry out your wishes and administer your estate.  The Executor will be given the legal power to handle your assets and debts as if they were you.   The Executor’s tasks are complete once the taxes and other debts have been paid, the assets distributed and the estate closed.
  • Guardian:  A person who will be given custody of your children and the legal right to raise your children.
  • Trustee:  A person given the responsibility to manage the inheritance of  another under the terms set by your will.
  • Funeral and Burial Representative:  The individual empowered to make your final arrangements for cremation, funeral and/or burial.

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