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Last Will & Testament

  • A legal document that states how your assets (money, real estate, and other belongings) will be distributed after your death.
  • Can also be used to name a guardian for your children in the event of your death.
  • Can express your wishes with regard to disposition of your body.

Why do I need this?

When you don’t have a will, you die “intestate,” which means state law dictates how your property will be distributed. Depending on circumstances like where you live and whether you were married, the state may automatically hand over your possessions to a relative you haven’t seen in years, ignoring the people you care about and who care about you. While everyone should have a will, it is essential for LGBT people and people with HIV who often come up against discriminatory laws.

How it works:

Create a legal document called a will, which governs the distribution of your possessions, unless you have taken steps to put assets beyond the reach of the will (those steps could be something like naming beneficiaries to a life insurance policy or jointly owning property with the right of survivorship). In the will, you choose “beneficiaries,” people who receive things under the will; beneficiaries can be individuals or organizations. You also name an “executor,” the person who makes sure the directions in your will are followed. The legal process of settling a deceased person’s affairs is called “probate.” All the property that will be distributed to beneficiaries becomes part of what is called an “estate.” Before any money goes to beneficiaries, the estate must pay any applicable taxes and other fees, which reduce the size of the estate.

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