The Power of a Will

Movies and television often portray wills as mysterious documents that guard hidden treasures over which many family feuds ensue. However, in real life, a will is a legal document containing your final wishes.

Depending on how you draft your will, the size of your estate and the number of heirs you leave behind, your legacy may very well be the stuff of daytime TV dramas. It is important to understand the power your will has while you’re alive and after you leave this world. If you have substantial assets and properties, the existence of your will may influence the behavior of future heirs while you are alive (see soap opera reference again). How effective your will is depends on how clearly it is written, whether it is drafted by an experienced attorney and whether it is updated often.

Assuming all of these criteria are met, your last will and testament has the power to accomplish the following tasks after you die:

• Ensuring your pet is taken care of — It’s true, you can leave funds aside, property and even an assigned caretaker to ensure your pet lives a happy life .

• Donating your assets to charity — Do you have a favorite charity that you would like to benefit from your wealth when you’re gone? Your will has the power to ensure such wishes are met.

• Dividing your estate up equally — In the event that you have more than one heir (e.g., a spouse and children), you can instruct to have your assets divided equally among everyone.

Disinheriting your expected heirs — Alternatively, you can leave your heirs nothing.

• Providing instructions should you become incapacitated — You can even include in your will instructions for family members about what they should do if you should become mentally or physically incapacitated and unable to answer for yourself.

The will of Henry VIII of England is one of the most famous examples of how powerful a will can be. In Henry VIII’s will, it named the succession of heirs to the house of Tudor . You might not realize it, but by creating a will and deciding who receives your assets, you are in fact creating a succession of sorts.