What Is a Will?
A will is a legal document instructing your executor of what should be done after your passing. After you die, your will becomes irrevocable, and cannot be changed. In your will, you can name the following:
an executor. This can be a person or an institution whose job will be to collect and manage your assets; pay off any outstanding debts, expenses or taxes; and after the court approves, distribute your assets according to your will.
beneficiaries, who will receive assets according to your will. Your beneficiaries can be your spouse, family members, friends, or charitable organizations.
a guardian for your minor children. You may choose an individual to care for your child until they turn 18. You may also choose a guardian, who may or may not be the same individual, to manage your child’s assets until he or she turns 18.
What Won’t My Will Cover?
Here are some examples of assets your will does not cover, even if they are included in your will:
Your spouse or domestic partner’s half of community property. Anything in your will that is community property will only affect your half of the share of the community property.
Community property with the right of survivorship. If you hold title to any assets, such as real estate or bank accounts, in you and your partner’s names as “community property with the right of survivorship,” those assets will pass to the surviving partner without being affected by the will.
Assets owned as a joint tenant with right of survivorship. This is similar to the previous point in that any assets held in joint tenancy with right to survivorship will pass directly to the surviving joint tenant without being affected by the will.
Retirement plans and life insurance. These will pass directly to the beneficiary you have listed on the plan documents, regardless of what is written in your will.
Assets held in a revocable living trust. Any assets held in a revocable living trust will be distributed according to the instructions in the trust regardless of your will. This distribution of assets does not require court supervision.