Every estate plan is unique to the person who creates it. Your individual situation dictates the documents that you include in your plan.
While there is no requirement that your estate plan must contain a will, the American Bar Association points out a few ways it can be especially useful.
1. Name a guardian for minor children
The possibility exists that your children could lose both of their parents at more or less the same time. If this occurs before the children turn 18, they need a guardian to take on the responsibility of caring for them until they become adults. A will is the most effective way in which to name a guardian for your children. The court has to give its approval to your choice of guardian, but it will usually do so unless there is a very good reason not to.
2. Provide for other parties
If you would like parties outside your family, such as stepchildren, friends or godchildren, to inherit from you after your death, a will is one way you can provide for them. If you have no will and no estate plan whatsoever, the laws of intestacy apply, under which third parties such as these do not benefit.
3. Dispose of assets not contained in a trust
A trust is another way to bequeath assets to your heirs following your death, and it offers many benefits to both you and them. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that you will be able to add all your property to a trust following your death. A “pour-over” will allows you to give instructions regarding the disposition of any remaining assets.
Wills and trusts each have strengths and weaknesses, and you and your heirs may benefit from an estate plan that includes both.