A will is a document that you sign to direct how certain property you own will be distributed after your death.
You can also use your will to:
Select your Executor (Personal Representative). This is the person who is in charge of collecting your assets and distributing them in accordance with your wishes.
Nominate a guardian for your minor children.
Choose someone to manage your minor children’s inheritance.
Describe how you would like your debts and taxes to be paid after your death.
Waive certain requirements like surety bonds and inventories, which will save your estate (and your heirs) money.
What a Will Does Not Do
It’s important to note that a will is only effective once you die. Other estate planning techniques can be used to distribute your property while you’re alive. For example, a deed or an irrevocable trust can be used to convey your property while you are still living. A Last Will and Testament, however, only causes your assets to be distributed after your death.
A Will should also be distinguished from a Power of Attorney. Some people mistakenly believe that if they have signed a power of attorney then they do not need a will. This is incorrect because a power of attorney has no effect after your death.
By that same token, you should understand that naming an executor in your will does not give that person any powers over your property while you are still alive. If you want someone to have authority to act on your behalf while you are living then you need to talk to your estate planning attorney about creating a Power of Attorney or a trust.
Why You Should Have A Will
Most people can benefit from the peace of mind offered by having a will. You can rest assured knowing that your loved ones will be taken care of and that your property will be inherited according to your wishes.
If You Die Without A Will
Alabama law has an intestacy statute that determines what happens to your property if you die “intestate,” meaning if you die without leaving a will. The intestacy statute was designed to distribute property in a way that closely represents how the average person would have designed his estate plan had he signed a will.
Of course, what the average person might have chosen for his estate plan is not necessarily what YOU would want for yours.
The only way to make sure that your property is distributed the way you want after your death is to execute a valid last will and testament.
An Estate Planning Lawyer Can Help
Online do-it-yourself forms can be tempting, but remember that estate planning isn’t one-size-fits-all, and that online forms can create problems that cost your heirs time and money down the road.
A lawyer can help you make sure that your will works for you and your loved ones, and that it coordinates with your overall estate plan. Get peace of mind by talking to our experienced estate planning attorneys today. Call us at 205-553-5353 or come by our Tuscaloosa office to find out what we can do to protect your assets and your family.
Lewis, Lewis & Falkner, LLC. | Attorneys at Law | 2224 15th Street Tuscaloosa, AL 35401
Phone: +205 553 5353 | Fax: +205 553 5593
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