What is the purpose of a Will?

A Will is a document by which a person (called a “testator”) can direct a person (called the “executor”) how to distribute the testator’s assets when he or she dies. The Will is used to carry out the intention of the testator as to who gets his or her assets and what each person gets at his or her death.

A Will has many benefits. First of all, it ensures that the testator’s assets are distributed according to his or her wishes. This gives the testator peace of mind that his or her loved ones are properly taken care of in the event of the testator’s death. Without a Will, the State steps in and distributes a deceased person’s assets according to rigid guidelines that do not consider the wishes of the deceased. This process is costly and time consuming. Second, a testator may place conditions on the use of assets passed through the Will to maintain control of the assets after her or she has died. Third, the testator can name the person (executor) to be in charge of distributing his or her assets in the event of his or her death, instead of having the court appoint someone. Fourth, the testator can declare in the Will who is to take care of the testator’s minor children in the event of his or her death, instead of having the children become wards of the court.

The principal duties of the executor are (1) To inventory and collect the assets of the deceased testator, (2) To manage and care for the assets during administration, (3) To receive and pay the claims of creditors and tax collectors, and (4) To distribute the remaining assets of the testator to those entitled under the Will. It is wise for a testator to designate someone as executor that he or she trusts.

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