What is a will? A will, also known as a “last will and testament” states your final wishes. A will must be witnessed or completely in the testators handwriting (also known as a holographic will). The more formalized a will (notarized with witnesses), the less likely it will be challenged. There are many things that a will can and can’t do. A will can:

  • Name executor for your estate
  • Nominate guardians for your underage children
  • Provide for pets
  • Name who your beneficiaries are and in what manner they are to receive assets
  • Can name a trust as the beneficiary of your estate thereby creating a pour-over will to ensure all assets follow the distribution language within a trust
  • Establish a testamentary trust to hold property for minor children, however a probate will be necessary to do this

While there are things that a will can accomplish there are certain limitations. A will cannot accomplish the following:

  • Avoid Probate- wills almost always ensure probate
  • Hold property during your lifetime, a will has no real legal value until after the testator passes away. This is why many people use a revocable living trust.
  • Name a power of attorney during your lifetime- a separate document called a Durable Power of Attorney is also needed to cover for incapacity issues

Wills can be a powerful tool in your estate planning, if created correctly.