A Will, also known as a Last Will and Testament, is a legal document that lets people know how you want your assets distributed after you die. It is also the only document you can use to name who you want to have legal guardianship of any minor children you have if you die before they are 18.
There is one very important thing to note if you decide to have a Will prepared. It only goes into effect when you die. It has no legal effect while you are still alive. Although that statement isn’t completely accurate. Even after you die, one more thing must happen before your Will has any legal effect. It must go through Probate. Probate is a court process where your Will gets filed with the Superior Court in the County you live in. So if you live in Maricopa County, it would get filed with the Superior Court of Maricopa County. After it is filed, the person you have named as your personal representative in your Will is appointed to legally be your personal representative. Only after that has happened does your Will have any legal effect.
So now you may be wondering who a personal representative is. The personal representative is the person you name in your Will to handle your affairs after you die. Another commonly used term is “executor”. The personal representative is typically your spouse, if you are married, or a child or other family member. However, you can name anyone you want and occasionally some of my clients name a good friend of theirs to be their personal representative.
If you have also chosen to name guardians of your minor children in your Will, then there is still a legal process that will have to take place before they are legally your child’s guardian. A guardianship proceeding involves a Judge deciding if the people you have named should be your child’s guardians. Judges usually follow your wishes unless it appears that the people you have named are unfit to be guardians of children, although this rarely happens.
I invite you to set up a free, no obligation consultation to discuss your options. I may be reached at 480-809-1014 or you may email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.