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If you want to ensure that your assets and possessions are divided as you wish them to be after your death, you should make a will. Making a will also protects partners, children, and other potential beneficiaries of your estate, by ensuring that they receive the things that you want them to. In many nations, you do not need a lawyer to make a will; you can find a kit which lays out the details for you and provides a basic template to work with. However, you may want to consult a lawyer to ensure that the will holds up in court, and lawyers can also offer advice about appointing an executor and taking other steps to ensure that your estate is handled smoothly and quickly.
Another important aspect of a will is that you can use it to protect yourself. If you like, you can set up a living will, which specifies what you want to happen in the event that you become incapacitated or severely injured. A living will can save your family a lot of heartache by indicating your wishes in the instance of a medical emergency.
When you make a will, the first thing you should do is appoint an executor. The executor is the person in charge of your estate after you die. He or she can be a member of the legal community, like a lawyer, but you can also appoint friends or relatives. It is a good idea to talk to your executor before you write your will, to discuss your wishes for how your estate should be handled, ensuring that your executor clearly understands your wishes and is willing to take on the duty of being executor.
After you establish the name of your executor, you can think about how you want to divide assets and possessions. You don't need to specify where everything you own goes; you can leave some things up to the judgment of your executor. For example, you could specify that a piece of antique furniture goes to a friend who loves it, and you can state that the rest of your furnishings can be dispensed as the executor sees fit.
It is important to detail the fate of assets like real estate and bank accounts. By being clear, you can ensure that the heirs to these assets can access them quickly; this can be crucial in the event that your heirs need to pay outstanding medical or funeral bills. Your last will and testament is also a perfectly appropriate choice to leave last minute messages in many countries, although the disposition of your assets can also send a clear message to your heirs.
You can also set up trusts when you make a will. These trusts can care for dependent children or pets while they require financial support, and they can also benefit organizations like charitable causes you support or your alma mater.
If you die without a will, the handling of your estate may be protracted. The state will typically appoint someone to act as executor, and he or she will follow prevailing laws in settling your debts and distributing your assets. Given that the law can get quite complex, this can cause some unpleasant surprises; for example, if you survive your partner and then pass away, your joint property would go to your family, and your partner's family would not be able to access any of the estate. Unless this is a state of affairs you want, you may want to make a will to clarify your wishes.