A last will and testament (generally known as a will), a durable general power of attorney and a health care proxy are three of the key items in an estate plan, according The Daily News in “How Useful is a Last Will and Testament?”
While a will may seem old fashioned, it is an individual’s post-mortem (death) plan to distribute one’s assets. They are almost always written down. There have been instances of verbal wills, but these are very unusual and risky. A will can be used to dispose of nearly anything which the person, known as the “testator” (if male) or “testatrix,” (if female), owns or has an ownership interest.
Any person who is legally competent can sign a will, provided they are aware of who they are, what assets they own and to whom they want to give those assets. In Tennessee, a will is generally valid if it complies with the laws of the state, the laws of the state it was drafted in or the last state where the testator legally resided, when they died. Estate laws vary from state to state, so it would be wise to have your will prepared by an estate planning attorney in your state.
Wills are used to transfer tangible property as well as real estate, money and ownership interests in businesses, stocks and other entities. While most beneficiaries are humans, wills can be used to name charities, trusts, businesses and animals as beneficiaries. For animals, some people have “pet trusts” created to protect their pets, if they should outlive their companion animals.
One benefit of having a will is the ability to decide for yourself who should inherit your possessions. If you die without a will, the state’s laws determine what happens to your possessions. That is known as dying “intestate.” Anything you own that does not have a beneficiary designation or surviving joint owner, will be passed automatically to your legal next of kin.
If you don’t have a will, aren’t married and have no children, your estate will be distributed to your next of kin.
If you have young children and die without a will, the court will appoint a guardian to rear your children. It may not be the person you would have chosen. If you have young children, you should have a will made without delay to name a guardian and a person to be in charge of managing your money that is left for your children.
Reference: The (Memphis) Daily News (Aug. 30, 2018) “How Useful is a Last Will and Testament?”