What is a will, and why do I need one?
A will formally determines the settlement of your estate and distributes your assets after your death according to your wishes. It also allows you to designate your estate's executor, guardians for minor children, and other fiduciaries. If you do not have a will, state law will determine how your estate is distributed. Wills should always be prepared with qualified legal assistance and witnessed by others.
How can I ensure that my assets automatically pass to my spouse?
A simple and inexpensive estate planning solution for married couples is to take title to assets as "joint tenants with rights of survivorship." When one spouse dies, the property then automatically passes to the survivor without going through probate.
What other estate matters should I consider?
Life insurance has a long history as a successful way to provide for surviving family members. You should review your insurance on a regular basis to make sure that you have adequate protection. Also, consider a durable power of attorney for financial matters and a living will and health care proxy for health matters: these directives allow you to determine who will make important decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated by an accident or illness.