When an individual dies, it is necessary to follow formal procedures to settle his or her estate. This process is called estate administration. A Will (Last Will and Testament) simplifies this process greatly. A Will is a legal declaration of one’s intention to dispose of his property after death.
The three primary objectives of the will are:
- that the property of the testator (the person making the Will) passes to the heirs as he desires
- to protect the assets, interests and rights of the family
- to facilitate Estate Administration
When making a Will, the Testator must choose an Executor to administer the estate. This person should be someone close to you whom you deem to be quite trustworthy. The Executor will have several duties and responsibilities upon your passing including: finding the Will and having it validated locating and protecting the assets of the estate; finding and notifying the heirs named in the Will paying the debts, expenses and taxes of the estate; and finally, to help distribute the property and assets to the heirs after all proper procedures have been followed.
The Testator must then decide how his or her assets will be distributed after his death. This is probably the most important aspect of a Will, because in the absence of a will, the distribution of assets will be determined by the courts.
Of course, that is not what any of us wants to happen. Typically, the Testator will simply set forth a formula to distribute his assets on a percentage basis, i.e. “I leave one-third of my estate to each of my three children”, or “I leave 50 percent of my estate to my wife, 25 percent to son A, and 25 percent to son B”. A common misnomer regarding Wills is that the Testator will have to divulge the exact nature and amount of all of his assets to the attorney drafting the Will or to the heirs who will be named in the Will. Because most Wills are designed to distribute assets on a percentage basis, you usually do not have to divulge anything regarding the amount or size of your assets to anyone, the choice is entirely up to you.
A Will is usually a very simple document, albeit a very important one, that every individual should have regardless of age. Call Attorney Artim at (412) 823-8003 to schedule an appointment or to discuss any question that you may have regarding Wills or Estates. If you prefer, send an email to Attorney Greg Artim