Your will is a legal document that directs what should happen to your belongings at the time of your death. A will can generally be changed during your lifetime. A new will can be drafted if there are substantial changes to your wishes. A codicil can be used to supplement your initial will if you are only making minor revisions. A will becomes irrevocable upon the death of the decedent. A will should identify who is responsible for carrying out the provisions of the will. That person is referred to as an Executor. The Executor would be responsible for producing the will to the appropriate court after death to begin the process of administration of the decedent’s estate.
Not every asset owned by a party at the time of death will pass under the direction of the will. It is important to understand the difference in how assets will pass to ensure proper estate planning. Probate assets, those passing through the will, are those for which there is no pre-existing designation as to who should get the asset. Examples of typical assets that will pass under the direction of your will include individually owned bank accounts, cars, personal property, business interest, real property held as tenants in common, cash, and life insurance with no beneficiary. These types of assets should be distinguished from any account with a beneficiary designation, non-probate assets, as those accounts will pass to the beneficiary. Common non-probate assets include accounts with P.O.D./T.O.D. designation and retirement benefits or insurance policies with beneficiary designation. By April M. Townsend