A Last Will and Testament is a formal legal document where you decide exactly how and in what portion you want your assets and property to be distributed upon your death. You can choose any number of recipients of your property, whether they be family members, friends, or charities. The Will is witnessed and signed by a person who is at least eighteen years old, of sound mind, and under no undue influence at the time of signing the will.
In a Will, you decide who will be the person in charge of administering your estate, called the “Personal Representative.” If you’d like to know more about what a Personal Representative does, read more on our blog at “Duties and Responsibilities of a Personal Representative.” Another decision you make in a Will is determining how final expenses and taxes are paid. An important aspect of a Will for parents is the ability to designate a guardian for your minor children. Without a Will expressing your wishes, the Court will choose who is appointed as guardian for your children. Also, you can decide whether or not the court should supervise the administration of your estate.
The Wills we prepare at Troyer & Good also provide you with the opportunity to make a handwritten list of your wishes for your jewelry, furniture, family heirlooms, etc. This list is called the “Memorandum of Personal Property” and is available for download on our website. You can add to the memorandum at any time without the formality of signing a new Will. Because we refer to it in your Will, it is legally enforceable upon your death. Without a Will, such a letter or memorandum would not hold up in court.
You may have heard about a “Living Will.” Is this the same thing as a Last Will and Testament? No, they are not the same document. Your Last Will and Testament is a document that directs what happens to your property, bank accounts, stock, CDs, and other assets when you die. You specify amounts of money or certain property to the named individuals or charities in your Will. On the other hand, a Living Will has nothing to do with what happens to your assets after you die. A Living Will is a legal document that lets your doctors and family know your desires regarding medical treatment at an end of life situation. For a further discussion, see “What are Advance Directives for Health Care?” and “The Difference Between a Living Will and a DNR.”
Do you really need a Last Will and Testament? Yes! It is the only way to express your wishes regarding your assets and property, your children’s guardian, and your administration preferences. Without a Will, your estate will be distributed according to the Indiana laws of intestacy. Read more at “Intestate vs. Testate” to understand what this means.