A will is a document that declares a person’s wishes to transfer his/her real estate to another at death. The only difference between a will and a testament is a will applies to real estate while a testament applies to personal property. You no longer need to write a will and testament as separate documents as they can now be written as a single document. Requirements for this document vary depending on your jurisdiction. There are some general requirements for your last will and testament that you should be aware of.
When writing a will you need to make sure you register a power of attorney (POA). With this you will be giving someone the legal power to execute your wishes as stated in the last will and testament on your behalf. There are parameters for when a person can assign a POA and you will want to be aware of what they are. When writing the document you need to clearly label the face of the document with the title “last will and testament”. This will serve as proof that these are your final wishes. If there were previous wills you will have to state that by writing a new document you are revoking all previous wills and testaments.
When signing a will it is required that you mention that you are signing the document in their full senses (sound mind) and are doing so freely without any duress or incapacitation. Once the document has been completed it is also necessary to date it and sign it in the presence of witnesses including your attorney. A power of attorney can then be registered which will give your attorney the legal power to proceed with executing the will on your behalf.
Witnesses to your last will and testament are required to be non-beneficiaries. For example in Utah a person benefiting from a will is automatically disqualified to stand as a witness. The testator is then required to sign the end of the document. Anything that appears after the testator’s signature is ignored and in some cases it may lead to the disqualification of the document.
There are downsides to drafting a will and testament to your own. For instance one may use a beneficiary as a witness in a homemade will. If this happens the beneficiary will be disinherited regardless of what is stated in the will. It is therefore very important that when drafting a will, do so under the advice of a legal practitioner. However, it is necessary to have this document in place to ensure your possessions go where you want them to go and do not end up in probate.
Do-it-Yourself Last Will and Testaments
Keeping your affairs in order after you have passed on may be the greatest service you can do for your family and the last will and testament is there to make sure you do just that. Having a last will and testament will leave specific instructions as to the distribution of your assets to settle your family’s financial security. Filling out legal documents can be a bit difficult and confusing, but the age of information has come up with solutions to writing your last will and testament faster and easier.
Downloaded will and testament forms
Because of the advent of the Internet, dissemination and distribution of information has become simpler and faster. Now, even last will and testament forms can be downloaded from many Web sites on the Internet. Available in both ready-to-print and ready-to-edit formats, these forms allow you the option of filling out your forms by hand or editing them within your word processing software of choice and printing them out afterwards. Additionally, many will and testament forms support languages other than English. If you feel more comfortable writing in your native tongue, this may be the option for you. A decided advantage the downloadable will and testament forms is they are usually available free of charge. It is very convenient to make your last will and testament without having to pay for legal guidance.
Last will and testament software
If you feel unsafe downloading a free form that could have been made by someone ignorant of the requirements of a legally binding document, then another option for you is purchasing a last will and testament software. Such software is readily available both at your local computer store or easily downloaded from the Internet. Last will and testament software packages are made by companies who, at the very least, have direct dealings with law firms. Some law firms even make their own software in addition to providing face-to-face legal counsel. Therefore, you are assured that everything in the software is legally binding.
Last Will And Testament Laws
The laws of each state specify conditions for writing a last will and testament. Under old common law there used to be a separate writing disposing of real property (real estate) called ‘testament’, and a separate writing disposing of all other property called ‘will’. Hence the archaic phrase ‘last will and testament’. Because wills are documents to survive after their testators, the laws are very strict as to what should be or not be regarded as wills, as well as their proper implementation. For example, Utah stipulates that the maker of the will must be above 18 years of age. He must be of sound mind and he must be free from improper influences. As to how a will must be made it is stated that the will must be written, must be signed, and witnessed in a special manner provided by the Law. A person can change his will as many times as he pleases either by executing a new will or by adding a legal amendment called as a Codicil which has to be carefully made. Professional legal advice must be sought if.
The law comes to play especially when a person dies intestate. In Utah, for example, if a person with a wife and 2 children dies, leaving $100,000 without a will, then the spouse will receive the first $50,000 in property value plus one half of the balance of the estate, and the children will receive one fourth of the balance of the estate. Similarly, if there is no will, the person’s administrator cannot carry on the business of the deceased without approval from the court. If there are minor children (under 19), the court may appoint a guardian. Since the person has not named an executor, the state will appoint one to take care of the estate.
Some states recognize holographic wills which are completely handwritten personalized documents of persons caught in emergency situations. A holographic will need not be witnessed but a proof of handwriting must be produced in the court during probate proceedings. If the will is not holographic and is printed it is required that the testator must sign it in the presence of at least two witnesses. To avoid future contesting of wills, it must be declared that the testator is of sound mind and free from undue influence from any quarter. The Law is also common to all states that the witnesses to the will cannot be named as beneficiaries in the will.
The law also allows for a person to change his will according to the changing circumstances in his life. He may marry, have a new child, get a windfall profit, etc. Revoking earlier bills and executing new one can bring changes. Or, codicils can be added to the existing will, which makes amendments, deletions and additions. A witnessed will can even be amended by a holographic codicil.
The laws of each state differ slightly in their formation and implication. But basic laws in all states follow the above patterns.
Reasons You Need a Last Will And Testament
Today, it could be mentioned that getting a Last Will and Testament for an elderly person could be a real problem but, it may not be a dilemma whatsoever given that the family lawyer is efficient at obtaining the necessary papers for a Last Will and Testament. One other great thing about acquiring the family lawyer to do this could be that the lawyer will be able to legalize it too hence which makes it a genuine contract which should not be usurped or overturned by virtually anyone except the federal courts or the client themselves.
The key reason why an aged person should have a current Last Will and Testament is that all sorts of things can occur and someone could find themselves not gaining something from that aged person. For example, let’s say the elderly person is a lady and, she’s got 3 granddaughters named Betty, Diana and Shelly but, she’s particularly very close to Shelly apart from all of them. If the girl’s nana didn’t revise her Last Will and Testament immediately after she was born then she certainly is the only granddaughter that would not get a penny after her grandmother passes on, particularly if her grandma was more likely to leave her an item they shared together with each other.
A lot of people usually tend to believe that having a Last Will and Testament is merely for much older folks which aren’t true at all because younger individuals are every bit as likely to die or pass on unexpectedly as senior people today are. More youthful people often wait until they get older to make a Last Will and Testament. They do not feel it’s necessary to make one when they are younger and they don’t consider taking it seriously and that can be a big mistake. For the sake of argument, let’s assume a man had a child from a previous marriage and then remarried. Let’s also suppose he never had drawn up a Last Will and Testament. If he did not get a Last Will and Testament made while he is married to a another woman then it is very likely that if perhaps she dies then his wife will get his complete estate and the child will receive not a thing specifically if the child is at present grown and of the specific age of 18 or older.
Additional Reasons to Have a Will
A “last will and testament” is a legal document that contains instructions on how your property (legally known as your “estate”) should be distributed when you die. By spelling out exactly how you would like your estate handled in the event of your death, a will provides peace of mind for yourself and your loved ones.
• Decide How Your Estate Will Be Distributed: A person who makes a will is known as a testator, and those who die without a valid will are said to have died “intestate.” If you die without a will, your estate is distributed according to your state’s intestacy laws. There is no guarantee that these state laws will align with your wishes. The easiest way to avoid this problem is by drafting a will.
• Decide Who Will Take Care of Your Minor Children: A will allows you to decide who will take care of your minor children in the event of your death. If you do not make this decision in a will and the child’s other parent is not living or available, a court will appoint a guardian. The guardian will most likely be selected from among your family members. However, you know your child best and are probably in a better position than a court to make sure your child does not end up in the wrong hands.
• Facilitate the Probate Process: Probate is the legal process wills go through to ensure they are valid. The term also refers more generally to the court-supervised process of distributing an estate. Contrary to popular belief, probate is not always lengthy or expensive. This depends greatly on the size and value of your estate. That said, a clearly drafted will can minimize the delay. For example, if a disgruntled family member “contests” the distribution because they believe they deserve a larger share of your estate, your will can quickly settle the dispute.
• Minimize Estate Taxes: The process of drafting a will early on provides an opportunity to explore various estate planning tools to minimize your estate taxes. You can also explore ways to reduce the inheritance taxes your loved ones may have to pay when they receive property from your estate. This is particularly useful if you have a very valuable estate that exceeds the federal estate tax exemption.
• Decide Who Will Administer Your Estate: The person responsible for administering your estate is known as your personal representative. If you do not appoint this person in a will, a court will appoint one for you. Either way, this person is responsible for things like paying your debts, shuttering your bank accounts, canceling your credit cards, and distributing your estate. Needless to say, this is a position of great trust. A will allows you to appoint someone you know to be responsible and competent. Many people select family members as personal representatives. However, this is not mandatory and may not always be the best option if you are worried about family disputes.
• Disinherit Individuals You Do Not Want To Receive Your Property: Again, if you do not leave a will behind, probate courts will distribute your estate according to state intestacy laws. These laws create a hierarchy of inheritance among your surviving relatives (known as your heirs) that may not reflect the most current state of affairs between you and your family members. A will provides an opportunity to specifically include people (known as beneficiaries) who intestacy laws would otherwise leave out. It also allows you to disinherit heirs who would otherwise be included. Make sure your instructions are drafted clearly and unmistakably to help silence family disputes down the road.
• Make Gifts and Donations: In addition to distributing your estate to your family, a will also allow you to make donations to charitable causes. Further, gifts up to certain amounts may also reduce your estate tax. When drafting your will, make sure you check for the most up-to-date gift tax exclusions.
• You Can Always Update Your Will: Once you draft a will, it can be updated as your life circumstances change. Your most recent valid will is normally the most authoritative. There are many reasons you might need to update your will. Examples include the birth of a new child, the death of a relative, and divorce.
• Avoid Legal Challenges: A valid will is a binding document that voices your desires when you are no longer around to speak for yourself. If you’ve read through this entire article, you probably get the gist already. It is worth emphasizing just once more. A well-drafted will reduces the risk of legal challenges.
• Tomorrow Is Not Promised: A will is an important document that acts as the foundation of your estate plan. Do not procrastinate. Once you pass away, the opportunity to make a will is gone. The result is often a great deal of stress for your surviving family members in a very emotional time.
Requirements for a Will
Will requirements are set by state law, and you must meet your state’s requirements whether you’re making a simple pour-over will or a more complicated one. It must meet the requirements for a valid will, or the probate court won’t honor it. The result would be the same as if you hadn’t left a will at all. These rules typically govern how many witnesses you must have to the signing of your will and exactly how you must sign the document. Many “invalid” wills are declared void for errors in these simple areas. You must additionally have reached the age of majority in your state to be able to leave a last will and testament. Minors can’t do so. You must be of sound mind. You can’t use a last will and testament to coerce a beneficiary into taking some action, whether it’s illegal or just something you believe to be in their best interest, such as graduating from college. You can’t disinherit your adult children if you live and die in Utah.
Individuals who are considering drafting a trust or a will may wish to consult with an estate planning lawyer. He or she can explain the advantages of using a trust as well as a will. He or she can make recommendations based on the specific considerations of the client. He or she may even recommend using both documents, such as by using a pour-over will that places any property owned at the time of the testator’s death into the trust.