Adoption 101: The Legal Fundamentals

Adoption 101: The Legal Fundamentals

Choosing Your Estate Beneficiaries

Brayden Miles

How would you feel about the county probate court deciding how your personal possessions are handled after you pass away? Most people prefer to make their wishes known using a last will and testament. Will preparation means taking your time and thinking things over before you decide how your property will be distributed. It's important to speak to a probate or estate lawyer about your will. You want to make out a will that is legal and that will be certified by the probate court. A will is about more than just who gets what, but naming beneficiaries is a large part of a will. Read on to find out more.

What Can Be Bequeathed?

Almost anything you own can be passed on to whoever you wish. Even pets fall into the category of property for estate purposes. If you still owe money on something, like a vehicle, your beneficiary might have to arrange for financing or pay the debt off to take ownership of the property. You don't have to stop at leaving property to individuals, however; you can also name charitable institutions in your will as beneficiaries. Your property, in most cases, includes these items:

  • Bank accounts (saving and checking)
  • Investment accounts (401(k), stocks, bonds, money market)
  • Real estate
  • Vehicles
  • Art and jewelry
  • Collectibles
  • Silver, gold, coins, etc.

Who Can Inherit Property?

Many people create a simple will that allows named survivors to divide the estate up in equal sections. If you have three children, for example, you may leave the estate to all three. Likewise, you can leave everything to your current spouse. You cannot, however, leave property to a pet. Instead, you can bequeath the pet to someone and leave them funds for the care of the pet. Along with pets, you cannot leave property to someone under the age of 18. You can either leave it to an adult and trust them to provide it or create a trust and name a trustee to administer the property for the child until they turn 18. Once you make out a will, it's important to review it every few years or when a major life event occurs. For example, the death of a beneficiary might prompt some changes to your will.

A Word About Spouses

If you are legally married at the time of your death and don't leave your spouse a certain amount of property, your state could step in and adjust the distribution of your assets. Not all states use this protective measure, though, and you are free to exclude your spouse in almost all others.

Speak to a lawyer who offers probate law services to find out more.


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About Me
Adoption 101: The Legal Fundamentals

If you've decided that you want to adopt a child, the first thing you should do is reach out to a family law attorney. While it may not seem logical to get an attorney involved from the start, it's important that you protect yourself legally from the beginning. After making the decision to adopt, I have been through the process several times. I created this site to help other adoptive parents understand what they can expect from the entire process, including the legal support you're likely to need. I hope this information helps you feel more confident in this major life decision.