What Happens if I have a Will?

Generally, you can provide specific instructions on how you wish your property to be divided. One of the main rules however, is that you must own the asset in order to exert complete control over its distribution.

For example, in a community property state, if you own a house with your spouse, unless it is adjudged to be all of your separate property, you cannot simply give away the house to your favorite nephew, thereby displacing your spouse.

Another example is where your pension is in your name only. In many states, pensions are distributed to beneficiaries outside the will, so if you specify in your will that your pension should be given to your grandchild, the gift or "bequest" as it is called in the legal system, may not be valid. Additionally, pensions are governed by state property laws, and it may be determined that this pension, even though it has only your name on it, may be owned in part by your spouse, or even others. These are complicated laws and if you have one of these issues, one can only be certain it is handled properly by consulting with an attorney, before you put it in the will.

As we have seen, having a will at least guarantees that you will have some say in the distribution of your estate, so long as the will is properly prepared. It also makes certain that the person(s) you appointed to be your executor(s) will be involved in the process of distributing your estate.

To make sure that your property is distributed as you wish, contact member services. We can pair you with a local attorney with expertise in your state.

Posted in: Estate Planning