Fundamentals Of a Will

A will is a legal document that makes your final wishes known. Also known as a “last will and testament,” it allows you to appoint guardians for your minor children and coordinate distribution of your assets after your death. As long as your will is valid and complies with the laws of the jurisdiction where it is created, the county court that reads it will ensure that your wishes are carried out.

How Do You Write a Will?

Some people write a will themselves, some people use a prewritten will template as a guide, and other people hire an estate planning attorney to help them write their wills. The lattermost course of action is the most expensive but also the best way to ensure that the will is valid and less likely to be challenged after your death.

What Types of Wills Are There?

Most wills are created with word processing software on a computer and printed out. In order to be valid, they must be signed by the testator (the person making out the will) and one or more witnesses. The number of witnesses required varies according to the laws of each state.

Sometimes when you use a pre-printed will template, you simply fill in the blanks on the form with information pertinent to your situation. However, these types of wills are not valid everywhere. It is better to use a computerized will template that allows you to type in your particulars.

Some states also recognize the validity of a holographic will, which is one written out in your own hand. Where holographic wills are considered valid, they do not require witness signatures, although they still must be signed by the testator. Some states do not allow holographic wills at all, while others only allow them in certain circumstances. Even states that allow holographic wills may question their validity if they are not written entirely in the same hand.

An oral will is one in which the testator expresses his or her wishes to witnesses through the spoken word. Oral wills are rarely recognized because there is no written record for verification.

What Does a Will Do?

One of the most important tasks that a will does is to name an executor who will be in charge of managing your estate. If you have children or pets who will require care in the event of your death, your will should name a guardian or caretaker, respectively. This is an important task that requires a will to accomplish. Naming guardians/caretakers is beyond the scope of other estate planning documents, such as living trusts.