In general, we recommend that everyone has a Will. However, more specifically, there are a few situations where a Will is particularly important:
- If you want your assets to go any way except by the laws of intestacy. Generally this means to your spouse, then your children, or if none then to your parents, siblings, and so on, but read this for more specifics.
- If you want to provide that a particular person should not inherit from you.
- If you want to designate a particular person to oversee the distribution of your assets.
- If you want to designate a particular person to serve as guardian for your children.
- If you want to provide for a trust for beneficiaries who are minors or otherwise incapacitated. This is most often invoked for children of a deceased beneficiary, but also applies for beneficiaries who may receive needs based government benefits.
It is important to remember however that a Will has no legal effect and does nothing until it is admitted to probate. Your personal representative (i.e., “executor”) will need a probate lawyer to navigate the probate of a Will.
If you have one of the above situations but want to avoid probate, you should read “Who needs a trust.”