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Understanding Your Last Will and Testament

Planning for the inevitable is not a pleasant task, but it is an essential one. A last will and testament is a legal document that allows you to express your wishes regarding the distribution of your assets after your death. In this blog post, we’ll delve deeper into this often misunderstood aspect of estate planning.

What is a Will?

A will, also known as a last will and testament, is a legally binding document that outlines how your personal property, such as bank accounts, real estate, and other assets, should be distributed upon your death. It also allows you to name a guardian for any minor children you may have and specify your funeral arrangements.

The Importance of Having a Will

Dying intestate, or without a will, leaves the distribution of your assets up to state law, which might not align with your wishes. Having a will ensures that your family members and loved ones are taken care of according to your preferences.

Creating Your Will

To create a will, you must be of sound mind, meaning you understand the nature and extent of your property, who the beneficiaries are, and what the will does. Most states require that you be at least 18 years old to create a will.

In your will, you’ll name an executor who is responsible for carrying out your wishes. This person will navigate the probate process, which involves validating your will in probate court, paying off your debts, and distributing your remaining assets.

Assets Covered by a Will

Your will covers any personal property that is solely in your name when you die. This can include homes, land, vehicles, jewelry, bank accounts, and retirement plans if there aren’t designated beneficiaries.

However, certain types of assets, such as life insurance policies or jointly owned properties, typically aren’t covered by a will. These assets pass directly to the surviving co-owner or named beneficiary.

Last Will and Testament vs. Living Trust

While a will outlines how you want your assets distributed after your death, a living trust allows you to manage your assets during your lifetime and provide for their distribution upon your death. Assets placed in a living trust can avoid probate, saving the beneficiaries time and money.

Storing Your Will

Once you’ve created your will, it’s important to store it in a safe location, such as a fireproof safe at home or a safe deposit box at a bank. Ensure that your executor knows where to find your will when the time comes.

Revising Your Will

Life changes, such as marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, or acquiring significant assets, should prompt a review of your will. It’s crucial to keep your will updated to reflect your current wishes.

Power of Attorney

In addition to a will, it is often advisable to have a power of attorney (POA) document. A POA designates someone to handle your financial and healthcare decisions if you become unable to do so.

Estate Tax

Depending on the size of your estate, it may be subject to federal estate tax. Some states also have their own estate or inheritance taxes. Proper estate planning can help minimize the impact of these taxes on your beneficiaries.


Creating a last will and testament is a critical step in ensuring your wishes are carried out after your death. While it may seem daunting, experienced legal counsel can guide you through this process, providing peace of mind for you and your loved ones.

At McBrien Armistead Law Group, we’re committed to helping you navigate the complexities of estate planning. Whether you need assistance with drafting your will, establishing a living trust, or navigating the probate process, we’re here to help. Remember that every case is unique and requires custom assistance. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can assist you in planning for the future.

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