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A last will and testament is an essential part of an estate plan. A will directs to whom a person’s estate will pass as well as who will be responsible for distribution of the estate.

If a person dies without a will, the estate will be governed by state intestacy laws. The process could be more costly and assets may not necessarily pass to the decedent’s desired beneficiaries. In addition, the administrator of an estate may be required to obtain a surety bond, the cost of which will be an additional expense on the estate that could have been avoided with a will.

Assets may be jointly or may have beneficiaries designated. These assets will pass outside of probate. However, even estates that contain mostly non-probate assets may have or receive assets or income after death that will require appointment of an executor or an administrator to distribute the assets. In addition, retitling assets to name joint account holders or beneficiaries may have unintended consequences. The titling of assets should be discussed as part of an overall estate plan, including a last will and testament.

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