What is a Last Will & Testament?
A will or Last Will & Testament is a legal declaration by which a person, the testator, names one or more persons to manage his/her estate and provides for the transfer of his/her property at death.
Even if you have a trust, you should also have a will. A will that accompanies a trust is known as a “pour-over” will because the will then “pours over” assets that a person may have neglected to put into their trust while he/she is alive. The pour-over will says “Anything that I did not put into my trust when I was alive, I now put into my trust.” However, if the value of the assets is high enough, those assets will need go through the probate process.
Many people think that making a will is enough to avoid probate. Unfortunately, a will is simply an expression of your wishes and must go through some kind of court process before the assets can be distributed to the heirs.
Probate is needed because the owner of the property or asset is deceased. Once the owner of the asset has died, probate court is the legal process needed to take his/her name off the title of an asset and put it in the new owner’s name.
If you ONLY have a will and no other documents then you might think of it as a letter to the judge that says something like the following:
I did not take the time to put my affairs in order. So now I leave it up to you as to how and when the people named in this will receive what I have AFTER you do what you think necessary and pay what you decide expenses should be. Oh, and make sure you make this a public record so everyone knows my affairs.
Didn’t Get Around-to-It