A Will is legal document in which a person, known as the testator, states their wishes as to who shall receive their property at their death. Additionally, the testator selects a personal representative, sometimes referred to as an executor, to administer their estate throughout its final distribution. A final key piece to a will is where the testator provides who they wish to be the guardian of any minor children of the testator.
Most states require that a will be filed with the probate court within a year of the date of death of the testator. Updating your will is important to make sure any major life changes have been dealt with in your will. We recommend updating your will every five years or after events such as the birth of a child, marriage, or the purchase of any real estate. A will can be changed by either creating a codicil, which is essentially an amendment to the will, or by creating a new will that revokes all previous wills. Any codicil must meet the same formal requirements as the original will: be in writing, signed by the testator, and be witnessed by at least two persons.
When someone dies without a will, state law controls any major decisions the will normally would address, including who receives any property, how an executor or administrator is named, and who will be the guardian of any minor children.