Once again – I am not a lawyer. This is my understanding. Consult your attorney for clarification in your area.
We all should have these in place but if you are like me, you probably don’t. Everyone should have a will especially when kids are involved. Then as life changes, we should always keep them updated.
My mother did not have a will. She just assumed that everything would be divided between the four kids. So, we made an appointment and went to the lawyer. For a reasonable amount of money she wrote out a basic will. I thought we had it all covered with a few specific items going to my brothers that had meaning for them and the balance divided between all us kids equally.
The lawyer advised to change the beneficiaries on the life insurances to the estate of MOM. But, mom didn’t tell me there were multiple life insurance policies. I changed them on the two I knew about. Now, we have found others so I may have messed up the funds without meaning to. Also, her checking account and savings account were not set up right so they might revert to the person on the account with mom. The lawyer has to talk to the bank and see exactly how they were set up.
It is very important to understand the differences between and, and/or, payable upon death, with rights of survivorship, etc so that you make sure everything is written they way the person wants. What did she actually mean to happen we will never know.
Bottom line, make sure you understand exactly how everything is titled (like vehicles and houses), know about all the life insurance policies and accounts (IRA, CDs, 401K, etc.) and how they are set up. Have your lawyer go over exactly what will happen when your loved one passes so they understand it. By doing this, you can make sure that their final wishes are carried out.