As you may already know, it is important to have a written will in order to control the disposition of your assets after your death. While you may be generally free to distribute your assets as you wish, there are some restrictions that may vary from state to state. These include the following:
- Spousal Rights: If you are married, your spouse is typically entitled to receive a share of your estate. If your spouse does not receive the amount mandated by law, almost every state allows him or her to take an election against your will.
- Children’s Rights: Unless you intentionally disinherit them, some states allow your children to receive at least the share they would have been legally entitled to if you had died intestate (without a will). Also, if you have or adopt a child after your will is executed—unless you have provided for that child in your will, or he or she has received a share of your estate through lifetime gifts—some states entitle the child to receive the share he or she would have received if there had been no will.
- Gifts to Friends: Perhaps you are single and would like to leave your estate to a cherished friend. Your will may be contested by biological relatives who may have benefited if you had died intestate. To help guard against this situation, you may need to specifically disinherit family members.
- Charitable Gifts: If you plan to bequeath a portion of your wealth to charity, be sure you understand any limitations that may apply in your state, as some states limit the amount you may leave to charitable organizations at the expense of close family members.
To see that your assets are distributed according to your wishes, be aware of restrictions that could hinder such progress. Be sure to consult a qualified, legal professional to ensure that your will is properly prepared.