A “Last Will and Testament”, or simply a “Will”, is a legal document that directs the disposition of one’s property and the management of one’s affairs, which takes effect after one dies.
Historically, there was a distinction between one’s “Will” and one’s “Testament”. The term will, as used within the phrase “last will and testament,” was a reference only to the real property owned by an individual, whereas the term testament, as used within the phrase “last will and testament,” was a reference only to the personal property, such as moneys, investments, stock certificates, automobiles, personal effects, and furnishings, owned by an individual. Today, simply using the term “will” in reference to the legal document is sufficient.
While the primary purpose of having a Will is to control what property of yours goes to which relatives, friends, and charities, there are other important features of a Will.
First, a Will names an executor or executors. An executor is the person who will be responsible for settling your affairs on your behalf, once you have passed away.
Second, a Will may create a trust instrument, which may outline the conditions upon which a beneficiary is to receive their inheritance.
Third, a Will may appoint a legal guardian or custodian of one’s children and other dependants. Unlike most of the other provisions that may be contained within one’s Will, guardianship requires the full consent of the person or persons nominated.
Finally, a Will may contain burial instructions or other provisions, which, while not legally binding, are informative.
To understand why it is important to have a Will, check out our other post, “Why Do I Need A Will?”
For a more in-depth discussion about what a Will is, or for other wills and estates questions, contact us, and we will schedule a meeting with you. If you are interested in having a Will document drafted, please visit our pricing page to see our various packages.