An official last will and testament is the cornerstone of estate distribution following a person’s death. This document describes the owner’s plan for all of their property and assets, whether they are split evenly among family members or divided among dozens of recipients. A comprehensive and detailed plan is the best way to avoid conflict or confusion between various recipients when the estate is actually given to beneficiaries.

Appointing an Executor

Whether it’s a professional attorney or a trusted family members, many people designate a person to serve as executor of their will following their death. This person oversees the process of distributing assets and property according to the details outlined in the will. A personal representative or executor may be established by a probate court if the designated person is unable to perform the function or no one was specified.

Account for Pets and Children

A last will and testament isn’t just about division of assets and property. Parents and pet owners can specify their wishes about who will raise their kids or animals after they are gone. These issues are particularly important to include as they can be flashpoints for conflicts between potential receiving parties who have emotional attachments to the kids or pets in question.

Trust or Will Plan

There are two basic schemes that individuals can use to contain and distribute their assets posthumously. A will-based plan is the well-known system of simply dividing property and assets as they are. Using a trust-based plan requires a little more administrative work, but it can be a more stable and reliable way to control transfer of ownership. People who use trusts to divide their estate should also have a brief will to account for extraneous property outside of the trust’s ownership.

State Laws Determine Validity

The validity of a will and the process for ascertaining or enforcing the estate distribution process depends on individual state governments. That’s why it’s a good idea to work with professional wills and estates lawyers when drafting this essential document. Even small errors, like omitting signing dates, can invalidate the will and revert the entire estate to a probate court.

Even the thought of preparing for death can be uncomfortable, but it’s also a responsible decision that helps secure the future for loved ones. Creating a last will and testament doesn’t have to be a stressful or complicated process when you have help from licensed and experienced experts.

Author's Bio: 

Lizzie Weakley is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. In her free time, she enjoys the outdoors and walks in the park with her three-year-old husky, Snowball.