The Functions Of A Will

Estate Attorney

If you are like most people, you think that your will is the legal document that sets forth who your heirs are and what you desire each of them to inherit from you when you die.

While this is certainly the main function of your will, you can place other provisions in it as well, such as the following:

  • Name the person who you want to act as your executor and personal representative to take your will through
    probate after you die
  • Name the person or persons you want to finish raising your child(ren) if you should die before one or more
    of them attain legal age
  • Name the person(s) or entity you want to manage your minor child(ren)’s assets until he, she, or they attain legal age
  • Make provisions for your pet after your death
  • Leave assets to your alma mater, church, favorite charity, or any other entity you desire
  • Leave instructions as to when and how your heirs and beneficiaries receive their respective gifts and inheritances

Types of Bequests

Your will can make three basic types of bequests as follows:

  1. Specific bequests, i.e., those composed of a single asset you own
  2. Nonspecific bequests, i.e., those composed of a group of assets you own, such as “my entire stamp collection,” etc.
  3. Residuary bequests, i.e., those composed of any assets remaining in your estate after all your specific and nonspecific bequests have been fulfilled

In terms of the first two types, you can choose to make various kinds of requests, including the following, to one or more of your heirs:

  • Outright bequest
  • Bequests in trust
  • Conditional bequest
  • Joint bequest
  • Implied bequest
  • Life interest
  • Default bequest

Precise Identifications

You should be as precise as possible when making your bequests. For instance, instead of leaving something to “my son,” name him specifically, even if you have only one son at the time you make your will. Likewise, instead of leaving something to “my spouse” or “my partner,” specifically name this person as well.

The reason your will should be as specific as possible is that circumstances may well change after you sign it. You may divorce “my spouse” or “my partner.” You may have additional children. Anything you can do to make your will as unambiguous as possible will go a long way to preventing disputes within your family after you die. Your will can, however, provide for your as yet unborn children and grandchildren.

You should likewise describe the assets you leave as specifically as possible. Thus, rather than bequeathing “my grandmother’s ring” to someone, you should specify which ring you mean, such as specifying “the ruby and diamond ring originally owned by my paternal grandmother,” and then naming her. Again, meeting with an estate planning or wills attorney can be extremely helpful and informative.