Broadly speaking, a will allows you to make decisions about matters that will arise after your death. It gives you control over what will happen to your property, and in some cases to your family, with minimal involvement by the court.
More specifically, according to the American Bar Association, a will allows you to appoint someone who will be in charge of administering your estate after you are gone. The name for this person varies by jurisdiction; some use the term “executor” while others favor “personal representative.” In either case, the responsibilities he or she will perform are the same. The executor or personal representative will carry out the wishes that you express in your will to the extent possible.
If you have minor children, one of the most important functions of your will is to name a guardian who will look after them in the event of your death. This is a decision that you should take into careful consideration. Before naming anyone as a guardian, you should discuss the decision with him or her beforehand to ensure that he or she is both able and willing to assume the responsibility if needed.
With a few exceptions, you have the right to dispose of your property after your death however you choose. A will allows you to describe how you want your personal representative to distribute your assets after your death. This allows you to make bequeaths to those who would otherwise not benefit under the laws of intestate succession in your state. Examples include charities, friends, stepchildren or godchildren.
When making out a will, it is important to be aware of the applicable laws to ensure that it is valid. Otherwise, it may be subject to contest later on.