The most common estate planning instrument is the last will and testament, or more commonly, the will. A will only controls probate property, which includes any assets held solely in your name alone at the time of your death. A will acts as a set of instructions to guide a nominated fiduciary as to how your assets should be distributed after your death. This nominated fiduciary is your Executor and receives this authority through the Probate Court. Your Executor then has the power to manage your probate property according to the terms of your will as provided under the law and is also responsible for adhering to specific requests in your will (so long as those requests are also permissible by law). You may designate as many or as few beneficiaries as you wish, and you may name alternate Executors in the event your first choice is unable to serve in that role. You are also free to omit any persons you wish from your will, but there are circumstances in which such an omission may not be enforced. While there is no requirement to do so, it is strongly suggested that you update your will every five to ten years or when you experience a life-changing event. Failing to do so could result in an old will still having control over your assets’ distribution even if your relationship to beneficiaries has changed. You are free to update your existing will at any time by creating a codicil or creating an entirely new will that overrides any previous wills. Likewise, you are free to revoke your will at any time.
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