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Frequently Asked Questions About Wills and Estate Planning

What Does A Will Do?

In the simplest terms, a Will is a legally-binding document that details your final wishes to be carried out after you pass away. Through your Will, you may:

  • Determine how certain assets of your estate will be distributed
  • Name guardians for your children
  • Designate an executor to carry out the terms of your will
  • Decide how taxes and debts will be paid
  • Provide for family and pets

What Does A Will Not Do?

There are some types of property that are not distributed through a Will. These types of assets are known as non-probate property, and they automatically pass to an heir. Examples of this include:

  • Assets you own jointly with a spouse or other person.
  • Assets with a payable on death or transfer on death designation
  • Assets owned through contract rights, such as IRAs, life insurance, & 401ks

What Happens If I Die Without A Will?

If you die without a will, your state will take over and determine how your estate is to be distributed. While laws differ from state to state, the general default order of distribution is as follows:

  1. Spouse
  2. Children
  3. Grandchildren
  4. Parents
  5. Siblings
  6. Nieces & Nephews
  7. Cousins

However, it’s not exactly guaranteed that things will play out this way. Without a Will, the state has no way of truly knowing your wishes, opening the door for family disputes, disagreements among beneficiaries, and legal troubles that could plague your family.

Simply put, if you want a say in things after your death, you need to have a Will.

What Is An Advance Directive?

Also known as a living will, an advance directive is a set of written instructions that state how your healthcare decisions are to be made in case you become incapacitated, permanently unconscious, or unable to speak for yourself. This allows you to retain control of things like palliative and end-of-life care and reduces the chance for disagreements or stress for your family. Therefore, if you have specific wishes about how your medical care should be handled, then you may also want to create an Advanced Directive along with your Will.

How Do I Create A Will?

Though you can technically create a Will at home or online, we highly suggest you hire an experienced estate planning attorney to walk you through the process. Doing so will ensure your Will includes all the correct language as to avoid any unforeseen issues.
If you don’t have a Will, call the lawyers at Merrill, Merrill, Mathews, and Allen today!

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