What a Will Can Do
A will does many different things, depending on what a person's relationship is to the deceased.
A will allows you to decide who gets your property after your death. You can give specific personal items to certain persons, and choose which of your friends or relatives, if any, deserve a greater share of your estate. You can also leave gifts to schools and charities.
A will allows you to decide who will be in charge of handling your estate. The executor (also called a personal representative or administrator):
- gathers together all your assets and distributes them to the beneficiaries;
- hires attorneys or accountants if necessary; and,
- files any essential tax or probate forms.
With a will, you can provide that your executor does not have to post a surety bond with the court in order to serve. You can also give the executor the power to sell your property and take other actions without getting a court order.
A will allows you to choose a guardian for your minor children. This avoids fights among relatives and allows you to select the best person to raise your children. You may also appoint separate guardians over your children and over their money.
Example: You may appoint your sister as guardian over your children, and your father as guardian over their money. This way, a second person can keep an eye on how the children's money is being spent.
You can set up a trust to provide that your property is not distributed immediately. Many people feel that their children would not be ready to handle large sums of money at the age of majority (18 in most states). A will can direct that the money be held until the children are 21, 25 or older.
As of 2015, if your estate is over $5,430,000, it will be subject to federal estate taxes. If you wish to lower those taxes (by making gifts to charities, for example), you can do so through a will. Consult an attorney for help with your specific situation.