Your will lets you control what happens to your property. If you have minor children, a will can designate who will care for them after your death. You can specify a legal guardian for your children and name a personal representative to handle the distribution of your estate to your designated beneficiaries.
Your property must be distributed, so the probate court will appoint a personal representative of your estate to distribute the property in accordance with state laws. The costs associated with this are more expensive than if you name a personal representative in advance. You also risk having someone you wouldn’t have chosen to be in charge of your estate. The costs must be paid out of your estate before any property is distributed.
After you’ve drawn up your will, you must take the formal legal step of executing the will. This requires having at least two witnesses who have no potential conflict of interest. If your will is executed in a lawyer’s office, two other attorneys or support staff might serve as witnesses.
In general, you can choose the people you want your property to go to and leave it to them in whatever proportions you want—with some exceptions. For example, a surviving husband or wife may have the right to a fixed share of the estate regardless of the will. Some states limit how much you can leave to a charity if you have a surviving spouse or children, or if you die soon after making the provision.
You usually can’t disinherit your spouse, but in Michigan and every other state except Louisiana, you can disinherit your children. Your intent to disinherit them must be in writing.
In a video will, you read your will and explain why certain gifts were made (and others not made). The video might also show the execution of the will. If the will is contested, the video provides compelling proof that you were mentally competent and correctly executed the will. Consult with your attorney before making a video to find out about your state’s laws. Generally, videos are supplements, not substitutes, for a written will.
Excerpted from information by the American Bar Association