Do you know what will happen when you die? It's not a metaphysical question. What will happen to your estate? Who will get your house and other property? And most importantly, who will take care of your loved ones? If you die without a will, a court will make these decisions for you. And chances are, the outcome won’t be what you wanted. A will is a legal document that spells out detailed instructions to be followed in the event of your death. It allows you to speak clearly, even after you die.

The basics
Most wills name an executor. The executor’s job is to follow the instructions stated in the will and make sure your intentions are carried out. Your will should also detail who gets what: your sports car; the heirloom jewelry; the vacation cottage. These are important decisions. But none are as important as designating who will take care of your kids and other loved ones after you’re gone.

Keep in mind that the courts usually require the original document, so keep your will in a safe place and make sure someone you trust knows where it is.

Consider hiring a pro
You don't need a lawyer to draw up your will. In fact, there are many do-it-yourself options. But there are different types of wills, and various rules must be followed in order for your will to be valid and legally binding. The rules vary from state to state, so if you’re not sure about the laws where you live, consider consulting with an estate attorney. Ask your financial or insurance professional how life insurance can play an important role in estate planning.

Know your will’s limitations
Think of your will as the cornerstone of your estate plan. But know that it has limitations. For example, you can’t use a will to designate ownership of certain types of property or assets. Property held jointly, such as real estate, will automatically pass to the joint owner. And assets that have named beneficiaries, such as life insurance policies, bank or retirement accounts, will pass directly to those beneficiaries regardless of what your will says. So it’s important to stay on top of this – keep your beneficiary designations up to date to maintain control over who gets your assets.

Take advantage of life's third certainty
We’ve all heard the saying that death and taxes are the only certainties in life. A good will adds another. It helps to ensure your wishes are followed after you die. In other words, it gives you some control over your life even after you’re gone. 

This material is provided for general and educational purposes only; it is not intended to provide legal, tax or investment advice. We recommend that you consult an independent legal, tax or financial professional for specific advice about your individual situation. 

Securities and investment advisory services offered through Voya Financial Advisors, Inc., member SIPC.

Neither Voya nor its affiliated companies provide tax or legal advice. Please consult with your tax and legal advisors regarding your individual situation.