What is a Last Will and Testament

A legal Will, more formally known as a last will and testament, is a legal document that expresses your desires and intentions regarding the distribution of your real and personal property following your death. It is your Last Will and Testament that determines how, when and even why you want your property apportioned between your relatives, friends and charities. In most cases, your heirs must honor the instructions set out in your Last Will regarding the distribution of your property.

 

In addition to the distribution of your property, your Last will also appoints one or more people to act as executor of your Will. Your executor will be charged with the task of carrying out the instructions set out in your Last Will and winding up your affairs generally following your death. 

 

Without a Last Will and Testament, the decisions as to how your estate will be distributed and who will act as executor of your estate will be made by the probate court in accordance with your state’s intestacy laws (i.e. the laws that apply where a person dies without a valid will). 

 

The author of a Last Will & Testament is known as the ‘testator’ as he is “attesting” to his wishes as set out in his Will. The term ‘testator’ has become gender neutral over the years and as such it refers to both male and female Will makers. That said, it is not uncommon to see the female designation of the word (‘testatrix’) used, particularly in older Wills. 

 

A Last Will and Testament is a fundamental part of estate planning and features in the vast majority of estate plans.

 

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