Let’s start with the Will. In its simplest form, a Will is a legal document that provides a set of instructions with respect to who is to care for minor children, how assets (or money) and charitable gifts are to be distributed. The Will controls assets wherever they may be located, can say almost anything and can be changed as often as needed. To be valid, the Will must be signed, dated, witnessed and notarized.
Who are the players?
Testator: The person who creates the Will, chooses the Executor and beneficiary(ies)
Executor: Follows the instructions provided in the Will. This can be any person, over the age of 18. If you are married, it does not have to be your spouse.
Beneficiary: The person or entity that receives assets or money after debts and liabilities are paid.
Guardian: Cares for minor child until s/he reaches the age of majority
Common Myth: Wills do not go through the probate process. This is incorrect. Probate is the court’s process of determining the Will’s validity, thus all Wills undergo the probate process. This means at your death, your local Surrogate’s court (could be called something else in your state), reads the Will, makes sure it’s valid and then grants your Executor the authority to follow the instructions provided in the Will. Thus, the estate completes the probate process before your Executor can begin following the Will’s instructions.
Lillie N. Nkenchor
Lillie N. Nkenchor, Esq., LL.M, President of Lillie N. Nkenchor, PC, educates individuals, families and business owners on estate and business planning concepts. As an attorney and engaging speaker, she helps clients address their vision and devise appropriate, tax-efficient strategies that meet personal and business goals. She is uniquely skilled in removing complexity so her clients can take control of their personal and business objectives.