The laws governing wills vary state by state. When a person dies without a will, state law will determine who gets the property. This can result in unhappy surprises for the surviving family, especially in a step family situation.
If you do not decide how you would like your property to be distributed and put this into writing it will be decided for you! So it is very important to be sure that you have a will that specifies your wishes.
Other issues that can be dealt with in your will include the following: whether you would like burial or cremation, where you would like to be buried, who should get specific items and who gets the family pets. (Pets are important family members who are unable to speak for themselves, so it is a good idea to think about who would take them if you were no longer around).
Your state law will specify the formalities and language that should be followed in order to make it easier to transfer property upon your demise with minimal expense and court involvement.
Although some states allow handwritten wills, certain specifications must be followed and these types of wills can easily create a need for court interpretation. So can writing your own will (even if you use a computer program). Having an inaccurate will can be worse than having no will at all because it can be ambiguous (which can give a result you were trying to avoid), and may need to be interpreted by the courts (which costs money).
Since probate law varies by state, if you move to another state you should check with an attorney in your new state about executing a new will.
If you add a child to your family and your will does not provide for that event, you should update your will. Deciding who should raise children in the event of the death of both parents is often one of the toughest decisions that parents have to make.
If you have a significant change in your financial status, you should re-evaluate and update your will and consider whether you need further estate planning. If someone who you have named as a executor, trustee, or major beneficiary dies, you may need to update your will.
Although no one enjoys thinking about these things, having an advance plan can give peace of mind to you and your family.
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