What is a will?

A Will, or Last Will and Testament, is a legal document in which you designate how you want your property to pass and to whom it passes at your death. For example, a Will may be used to specify who will receive your home or other real estate, your automobile, furniture, jewelry, bank accounts and more. If you have minor children, a Will may be used to designate a guardian to care for your children at your death.  A Will also gives you the power to designate a personal representative, sometimes referred to as an executor, to handle the affairs of your estate at your death. 

A will may also include one or more testamentary trusts—these are trusts that will be set up upon your death based on the instructions contained within the will.  A trust is a legal entity that holds assets and property.  The trustee (selected by you in the will) is responsible for managing the assets and property according to your instructions on behalf of certain beneficiaries named by you. 

Reasons for including testamentary trusts might include: protecting the inheritance of minor beneficiaries so they don’t blow it all at age 18, protecting the inheritance of disabled or special needs beneficiaries so they don’t lose their critical public assistance benefits, reducing estate taxes, or various other reasons.