Wills: An Overview

WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH A WILL THAT YOU CANNOT DO WITHOUT ONE?

You can disinherit someone, including a child (but not your spouse)

You can distribute your property in equal or unequal shares to persons of your choice.

You can make cash bequests to a person, e.g., “$5,000 to my friend Tom”

You can make specific bequests to a person, e.g., “my sapphire ring to my niece Julie” or “my father’s gold watch to my son Jim”

You can make gifts of money or items to a charity, e.g., “$5,000 to my alma mater, Lafayette College to be used for scholarships” or “$10,000 to Albany Medical Center for cancer research”, or even “my automobile to the Ronald McDonald House”

You can identify particular assets to pay debts, administration expenses and taxes

You can provide for a presumption of survival in the event of simultaneous death with your spouse to minimize estate taxes

You can coordinate the use of the unified credit and the martial deduction to minimize taxes

You can provide for stepchildren

You can name and appoint a Guardian for your minor children

You can set up a trust to go into effect upon your death to provide for your children’s education AND appoint a Trustee to carry out your wishes

You can appoint a personal representative, called an Executor, whom you trust, to distribute your property as you direct in your Will