A will is a written statement directing who will wrap up your financial affairs, and who will receive your money and other property, when you pass. Property and possessions left in your name at the time of your death are referred to as your estate. With respect to wills, the ones named in the document who will receive your property upon your death are called “legatees.” They may or may not also be your legal heirs.
The person named in your will to be in charge of your estate when you die is called the executor. The job of the executor is to investigate what you own at the time of your death, make a list of all of your property, collect all of your property, care for your property until it is sold or passed on to the people you have selected to inherit it, pay your bills, file your final tax returns, and finish up any other financial business required of your estate after your death.
Once your finances are wrapped up, the remaining money or other property can be distributed to the legatees named in your will. Money and property held in joint tenancy ownership, such as a bank account or house, automatically is given to the surviving co-owners upon the death of one owner. Similarly, property held in trust, or in a payable on death account, automatically goes to the named beneficiary upon the death of the owner. Life insurance proceeds automatically go to the named beneficiary on the death of the insured person. These types of property are not affected by your will.
Establishing a will can be a complicated matter without proper legal representation. Please contact the Rockford, Illinois-based Law Office of Paul M. Marriett at (815) 391-0089 for a free consultation regarding wills in Rockford, Machesney Park, Loves Park, Freeport or other Illinois communities.
FAQs Regarding Wills
What does a will accomplish?
A carefully crafted will is your most reliable guarantee that distribution of your assets is conducted according to your wishes. In addition, your will:
- Enables you, if your family includes minor children, to specify who will assume responsibility for their upbringing as well as the manner in which you wish them to be raised
- Presents the most dependable way of communicating any special intentions you have (arrangements for the continuing care of pets, for example)
- Provides the best means of indicating who should receive items and “keepsakes” that hold sentimental value
What happens if I die without having a will?
Not having a will means that you:
- Surrender to the state all important decisions affecting the well-being and future security of your heirs
- Are at risk of having your property divided in a way that’s not to your liking
- Forego opportunities to reduce taxes through trust arrangements
When should I review my existing will?
Your will may be changed as often as you wish. If the change you desire is relatively simple, an amendment to the document, known as a codicil, is executed with the assistance of an attorney. If you decide to write a new will altogether, the new document should specifically revoke all prior wills. Remember that revoking a will automatically revokes its codicils, but revoking a codicil does not necessarily revoke a will. In addition, you should review your will once every five years or when any of the following occurs:
- A change in marital status
- The birth of a child
- A change in your state of residence
- A significant change in the value or character of your assets
- A change in intended beneficiaries
- The death of a beneficiary
- The death of a guardian, trustee, or personal representative named in your will
- A change in tax laws affecting federal estate tax deductions and calculations
Contact a Lawyer Regarding Wills
If you believe a change to your will is necessary, contact our office at (815) 391-0089 to schedule your free consultation. You can also use the contact form on this page to receive a response within 24 hours.