A will has three main purposes.
1) Establish a plan for distribution upon your death
To document your wishes for how you would like your assets distributed upon your death. The simplest and most common distribution is what we commonly refer to as an “I Love You Will”. I give everything to my spouse and then equally to our children. For most people, that is the plan that will actually happen upon their death. It is wise, however, to plan for all contingencies as well. With that in mind, you also want to provide for the possibility that one or more of your children may die before you do. In that event, you should also give directions on what happens to that child’s share of your estate. Some people want everything to be distributed to their surviving children while others prefer that their grandchildren (Children of the one who has died before you) would get the share that their parent would have received from your estate. These days it can get even more complicated if your child has married a spouse who already has children or if they have adopted children. Given the days we live in and all of the complicated combinations of possible distributions, it is more important than ever to make sure your plans for distribution upon your death are clearly document in an enforceable document that is properly executed.
2) Name a Personal Representative
In addition to naming your beneficiaries, it is also important to nominate who has the authority to make sure your wishes are carried out. Florida refers to that person as a “Personal Representative”. Other states may use the title of Executor or Administrator. We will discuss the importance of naming the right Personal Representative in a later blog so I will not go into great detail now.
3) Nominate a guardian for minor children
Sadly, many parents of minor children do not see the importance of doing estate planning documents. This is even more important at this stage in life. There is nothing more precious than our children and it is therefore very important to document your wishes regarding who will raise them in the event that you die before they become adults. A will allows you the opportunity to nominate the person who will raise them but also the person who will manage their money. Sometimes it is wise to have one person raising the children and a different person managing their money. All of this can be set up in a properly executed Last Will and Testament.