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What is a Will? Do you need one?

  • Published
  • By Major Scott A. Hodges
  • The AF Judge Advocate General's School
A will is a legal document you use to dispose of your property upon death. It also names who you want to take care of important jobs related to your death. For example, you can name who you want as your personal representative or executor. In other words, who should gather up your property, work with the probate court, and make sure your wishes are carried out. If you have children, it also names who you want to be a guardian for your minor children.

Not everyone needs a will. If you are young, unmarried and do not care what happens to your property at death, then you may not need a will. However, before you make that decision, you should sit down and talk with an attorney. If you die without a will, your property will be distributed in accordance with state law.

Each state is different. For example, if you are a newlywed from Arkansas and you die without a will, you may think everything you own will go to your spouse. However, under Arkansas law, your spouse would only get 50% of your estate if you have been married less than three years. The rest of your estate would likely go to your parents.

There is also a great new way to get started in the right direction if you do need a will. The new legal assistance website will allow you to fill out a will worksheet and think about all of the decisions you need to make before you get into the office with the attorney. The website also has more information about the law surrounding wills. Here's the website:

Bottom-line: Don't guess. Visit the website and then go and see a legal assistance attorney about whether you need a will.