Is it serious to not have a will?
According to statistics, roughly 55% of Americans die each year intestate (without some kind of will or trust in place). This means the laws of the state you die in will determine who receives your property by default. Typically, this will mean your immediate family (spouse, children) will receive your property, or other family, if you have none. A will allows you to bypass state laws and dictate who you would like to receive your property.
What does a will do?
A will is a legal document that permits you to specify where your property will go in the event of your death. You can dictate where money, physical assets such as jewelry or cars, or even investments go and to which people. Note that most states will prohibit you from disinheriting a spouse or children. A will also allows you to name an executor to your estate, name guardians for any minor children still in your care, provide for stepchildren or other non-blood related minors, and appoint a custodian for assets of a child covered by the Uniform Gift to Minors Act (UGMA) or Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA).
How is a will signed?
A will is generally drawn up and signed while in the presence of witnesses. Remember that certain formalities must also be followed or the will can be considered invalid; also remember that amendments to the will, called codicils, must be signed in the same fashion or they will cause problems upon the will's execution.
What happens if I own joint property?
If you are a co-owner of any property or assets with another person who is a joint tenant with the right of survivorship, upon your death your share of the property will revert to the co-owner. This property will not be considered part of your probate estate.