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What is a will?

A will is a document by which a person designates who inherits his/her assets after death. If there are minor children, the will also lists who will be their guardian until they reach age of majority.

Do you need a will?

Answering the following questions, should help you in deciding whether or not you need a will:

  1. Do you want a court to determine who gets your property if you die, or would you prefer to have your wishes followed?
  2. Do you want a court to determine who is appointed guardian of your minor children if you die, or would you prefer to declare a guardian of your choosing?

Do I need an attorney to prepare my will?

Legally, no. Practically speaking, yes. There are many do-it-yourself will forms and websites. However, most people feel uncomfortable with a do-it-yourself will. They generally have some questions that should be addressed by an experienced estate planning attorney. In addition, some people have more than just basic concerns or are in complex situations where drafting the will properly is vital. Legal assistance can help ensure that your intentions are clearly communicated and no questions exist at the time of your death. You should also seriously consider professional assistance if your personal situation includes concerns such as:

  • You have minor children, children from a prior marriage, or a beneficiary with special needs
  • You own significant assets and are concerned about minimizing estate taxes at your death
  • You want to achieve certain goals, such as controlling the management and distribution of your property after your death
  • You have heirs you wish to disinherit, or there is a chance your will may be contested after your death

Wills are not just for the rich. Regardless of how much or how little money you have, a will ensures that whatever personal belongings and assets you do have will go to family or beneficiaries you designate. Without a will, the court makes these decisions.

If you have children, you really do need to have a will, to ensure that you get to choose your children's guardian.

Few people plan to die in the near future, but if you die suddenly without a will, you'll be subjecting your family and loved ones to confusion and anxiety at what is already a difficult time.