A Will is a written document directing the passage of property after the death of the maker of the Will – the “testator.” A valid Will must be executed by the testator with the requisite formalities – usually in the presence of two disinterested witnesses who also sign the document.
Among other things a Will addresses who will receive the testator’s property that does not pass “outside probate” by deed, deposit contract, beneficiary designation or other non-probate means. A Will generally names the testator’s personal representative, trustee, if necessary, and back-ups. A good Will should also name a guardian of any minor children and provide for the care and management of any property that passes to minors. Most complete Wills have many other provisions addressing debts and taxes, simultaneous death, and administrative matters.
If you don’t make a Will before you die you leave an “intestate” estate. Don’t worry, the state has rules governing who gets your property, who has priority for appointment as your personal representative and how any of your property received by minors will be managed. If you are confident that you and your loved ones will be perfectly satisfied with the state’s choices about all this, you don’t need a Will.