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Would you trust the most important decisions of your life to others -- especially decisions that affect the welfare of your children? The answer is: of course not! However, unless you have a will, that is precisely what will happen. Under state law, the state will determine who, if anyone, is entitled to your estate upon your death.

A will is a legal instrument that specifies who are to be the beneficiaries of your estate, and when they are to receive their inheritance. The act of dying without a will is called "dying intestate". People who are not named as beneficiaries may challenge the wishes of the decedent. By properly preparing a will, you can reduce this risk.

There are rules and regulations that limit to whom you may leave your estate; for example, there are rules that prohibit you from leaving your estate to future generations of unborn children. Also, public policy considerations prohibit you from leaving gifts that would be viewed as waste, such as the maintenance of your petís grave. Under federal law, people with the largest estates are required to pay tax at a rate of 55 percent.

It is always a good idea to keep a copy of your will in a place that is easily accessible to others. In addition, it is wise to give copies of your will to one or two other people whom you trust. From time to time, your wishes may change as to how you would like your inheritance to be structured, and who you would like your beneficiaries to be. Amendments to a will are called "codicils". As long as you are of sound mind, your will can be amended at any time.

Don't leave the decision up to others of how your estate is to be divided. Instead, prepare a will.

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