A will is a legal declaration that enables you to direct the disposition of your assets upon your death. You can divide your assets any way you want, as long as guidelines are presented clearly in writing. The portion of your estate covered by a will includes both tangible assets, such as your home or your car, and intangible assets, such as bank accounts and mutual fund shares that are generally owned in your name. Other rights and benefits, like pension rights and life insurance proceeds, are normally handled outside of your will. In most cases, those benefits are paid directly to your designated beneficiaries. Also, if you have young children, a will provides you with the opportunity to name a guardian. If you die without a will and have minor children, the probate court will appoint a guardian for them, and there is no guarantee that the court's appointment of a guardian will coincide with your own.
To ensure that your intentions are accurately documented, a lawyer should draw up your will. Certainly, you (and your heirs, if possible) should be familiar with its general form and contents.
Much is made in life of the things we can't live without. Little is made -- in your financial life, anyway -- of the things you can't die without. A will is at the top of that list. While it's unpleasant to contemplate the possibility of your own demise, it's very satisfying to know that you've put your financial house in order.