Every estate plan, no matter how small, should include a will. Wills dispose of a person’s probate property at death.
Nonprobate property, such as life insurance proceeds and jointly held property, passes in accordance with its own terms and beneficiary designations and is not affected by the terms of a will. Also, wills may appoint a guardian for the decedent’s minor children, appoint an executor, and determine which beneficiaries will bear the burden of death taxes.
Wills that do not include trusts for minor or incapacitated beneficiaries are sometimes called “simple” wills.
Wills which provide for the bulk of the decedent’s property to be distributed to one or more trusts created during by the decedent during his/her life. The terms of the trust determine the ultimate distribution of the assets.
A detailed list, kept with the will, of specific tangible personal property, such as jewelry, books, furniture, or other household items to be given to family members or friends. This list can be modified by the testator without preparing a codicil or a new will.
Documents that amend, but do not replace, previously executed wills.
Powers of appointment are clauses, usually found in trusts, which give beneficiaries the authority to dispose of certain property.
If an individual has been named as a beneficiary but does not want to accept the property, for tax reasons or otherwise, the beneficiary can refuse to accept it by filing a disclaimer. If a disclaimer is executed properly, the property in question will be treated as never having been transferred to the individual. Certain strict procedures must be followed so that the disclaimant will not be considered to have made a gift to the ultimate recipient.