What is a Will?

A Will is your written declaration of how you desire your probate estate to be distributed, i.e., which assets pass to which beneficiary.

Approximately 55% of American adults do not have a Will or other estate plan in place, according to LexisNexis.

In your Will, you can:

  • Designate beneficiaries
  • Make specific bequests (to individuals, charities, etc.)
  • Nominate an Executor (someone who will carry-out your wishes)
  • Nominate a Guardian (for minor and/or special needs children)
  • Establish a Trust & nominate a trustee (for minor children)
  • Waive surety bond

Alternate Beneficiaries – In the event your primary beneficiary or beneficiaries predecease(s) you. (Typically one allows for the child(ren) of a deceased child to be the beneficiary of that deceased child's share. Also, do you want to designate beneficiaries in the event you are not survived by any immediate family members, perhaps as the result of a common accident?)

Specific Bequests – List any item or sum of money you would like to leave to an individual or entity. (You can list items on a separate form which we will provide if you prefer.)

Executor – Name someone who will administer your estate at the time of your death. Most people name their spouse and one or two alternates who can be your child(ren), other family members, friend, or your attorney.

Guardian – Who would you want to be appointed Guardian(s) of your children or special needs child if you and your spouse both die before your child(ren) reach(es) age 18 or at any age for a special needs child? You should also consider naming an alternate(s).

Trustee – Name someone to handle your children's finances if they are not yet of the age you choose for them to receive their inheritance, or if you have a child with special needs or issues that cause you concern as to how that child might handle their finances. You should also consider naming one or more alternate Trustees.

Distributions to Children – In the event you and your spouse both die before your children reach an age you would feel comfortable with them receiving potentially a sizeable amount of money, at what age(s) do you want the Trustee to distribute your children's share of your estate to them. For example, they can receive it all at once at a specified age or you can direct the trustee to distribute it to them in stages. Most people prefer staged distributions, receiving one-half or one-third at a time, such as 1/3 at age 23 or upon obtaining a college degree, 1/3 at age 27, 1/3 at age 30. This is just an example—you can decide any fraction and at any age you want. Please keep in mind that until your child reaches the age of distribution, Trustee is directed to pay for their support, medical care, education, etc. in the meantime. If you do not establish a trust, your children will receive their full share upon reaching the age of 18.

Surety Bond - You can specify that the Executor be able to administer the estate without the cost of a surety bond.

Please note that a Will only controls the distribution of assets titled solely in the name of the deceased person and without a designated beneficiary. An asset with a beneficiary designated, for example, a retirement account, life insurance policy, annuity, etc., is paid directly to the designated beneficiary regardless of the terms of a Will. Assets titled jointly automatically become the property of the surviving joint owner(s). Also, any assets titled in the name of a Trust are distributed according to the terms of that Trust, regardless of the terms of the Will.