While a last will and testament can designate who you might want to care for a minor or disabled child, its primary function is to make your wishes known about how your assets should be distributed in the event of death.
Through a last will and testament, you can designate a guardian over your minor or adult disabled child, if applicable, as well as name a personal representative to manage your estate in the event of your death. Your Personal Representative is the person responsible for ensuring that any outstanding debts - such as mortgages, credit cards, taxes or other liabilities are paid.
Once debts are paid, your personal representative ensures that the remaining assets are distributed to your beneficiaries in accordance with your instructions as set forth in your will. This distribution is supervised through a legal process called probate.
In the event a person dies without having a will, he or she is known to have died “intestate.” In this scenario, state statutes known as intestacy statutes dictate how the decedent’s estate will be distributed. Intestate is often considered the most expensive way for a person to distribute assets at death.
Everyone has heard the terms will and trust, but not everyone knows the differences between them. Both are useful estate planning tools that serve different purposes, and both can work together in the context of an overall more comprehensive