A Will (Last Will & Testament) is a legal document that directs how your estate (personal possessions, money, real estate) is distributed after your death.
It’s an important document because it gives you final control over your assets. For parents, making a will is one of the most important things you can do to make sure your child is cared for by the people you would choose if anything should happen to you. A will can also control the distribution of assets to your children by way of a trust.
When you die without a will, you die intestate. If you die intestate, the laws in the state where you live at the time of your death control the distribution of your assets. In Maine, probate property of a Maine resident who dies without a will is distributed under the intestacy rules of the Maine Probate Code. Under such rules, a surviving spouse and all descendants are entitled to certain specific shares of the estate. If you leave surviving children, minor or adult, your spouse will receive only a share of your estate. If you die residing in Maine without a will and no surviving spouse or relatives to take your estate under the intestacy rules of the Probate Code, your estate becomes the property of the State of Maine.
To avoid the intestacy rules of the Maine Probate Code or the task of preparing a will, some individuals choose to place some or all of their assets in joint ownership with a second individual as a method of accomplishing a transfer of such assets at death. Usually the second individual is the intended recipient at the death of the first. What many individuals do not realize is that the creation of such joint ownership creates immediate access to that asset by the joint owner. When the original owner dies, the remaining joint owner becomes the sole owner of the assets and is not required to follow the direction of the initial owner as to any other plan of distribution.
Whether your situation is simple or complex a will can be drafted to memorialize your wishes and ensure your assets pass to the beneficiaries you intend. We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you regarding your personal estate plan.
For some fun and informative facts on other reasons why you might want a will, see: