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The short answer is “now.” A Will is an important document that every person of age 18 and older should have in place. Many people are under the impression that only wealthy individuals need a Will, or that a Will is something you should think about later in life. Any attorney for Will preparation will tell you that in this time of COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to make sure you have a Will in place.

Below we will answer some of the most frequently asked questions about Wills.

What is it?

A Will is a legal document that expresses your wishes after you have passed away. Specifically, a Will tells your executor (the person you have named to carry out the Will) how you wish to distribute any money, bank accounts, investments, real estate and other financial assets.

The key here is that you follow important guidelines so your Will is considered a legal document, according to local estate planning lawyers.  If you do not do so, your Will can be declared legally invalid, and your wishes will not be followed. Consult with an Estate Lawyer to:

Write it down. A Will that is only spoken (called an Oral Will) is not legally recognized.

  • State who you are: full name and address so you are clearly identified.
  • Name your executor. This is a person you entrust with fulfilling your wishes. It may be a close relative or friend, or it may be a lawyer or other professional that you trust.
  • Provide clear instructions about who will receive your assets. Do not assume your assets will “automatically” go to your spouse or children.
  • Name guardians for your underage children and pets (if you have any).

Why do I need it?

A person who dies without a Will is considered “intestate.” That person’s money, bank accounts, and investments are frozen and real estate cannot be sold until a state court decides who will receive the assets. Most states have guidelines for the court in terms of distributing assets to surviving relatives. However, this court process takes time, and your surviving dependents might need the assets quickly. Think about your children who may be depending on court-ordered child support; they will receive the money you have left to them much more quickly if they are named as heirs in your Will.

In addition, the state’s guidelines for the court may be entirely different from the way you wish the assets to be distributed. Perhaps you would like to leave your boat to your best friend Jim who went fishing with you, or maybe you would like to leave money to your church or school. They will be entirely “cut out” by the state. If you were injured in an accident and want that settlement to go to your children rather than your spouse, the state may look upon the disbursement very differently than you do.

Who can help me?

Once you have gathered information about your heirs and all your financial accounts, it is important to schedule a consultation with an experienced Chester County wills attorney. At this point, your lawyer will direct you as to additional information you may need to gather or next steps to finalize the Will.