What is a Will?



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What Is a Will?

A Will gives instructions for what should happen in the event of a person’s death. Too many people think things will be ok without a Will, or that they don’t have enough money or property to need a Will. They should think again. Anyone of any age, net worth, or stage of life needs to have a Last Will and Testament. It should especially be a priority for those who have children.

A Last Will and Testament is a document that helps to protect your family in the event of your death. Yes, it states how your assets will be divided among your survivors. But that isn’t all it does.

If you have children who are young or who need help managing their inheritance, your Will tells the courts who you want to take care of your children when you’re gone. Plus, your Will names who will settle your estate, and avoid possible family fights over that.

Many people don’t want to think about their Will. It seems too complicated or time-consuming. And so, many people put off creating their Will until it’s too late. This guide is designed to make this easier for you, so you and your loved ones are better prepared for the future.

Wills: A Definition and Brief History

A Will is also called a Last Will and Testament. It’s a legal document that tells the court and your heirs your wishes for distributing your assets after you die. If you have children, a Will gives you the power to decide who will care for them after you die.

The history of Wills began in Ancient Roman times. Even then people wanted to give instructions for passing property and other possessions to heirs. Today’s laws for Wills date back to 19th century England, when many requirements for creating a Last Will and Testament were established.

The simplest way to define a Will is as a legal document that protects your assets, your spouse, and your other heirs in the event of your death. By stating your wishes in a legally binding document, others must follow what you stated in your Will.

The Purpose of a Will

Anyone who is 18 or older should have a Will. If you have any savings, property, spouse or descendants—you should take the time to create a Will. Without a Will, state laws and courts will decide how to distribute your assets. The state’s rules are very likely to be different than what you intended. And, without a Will, it is entirely up to the courts to decide you will settle your estate, and who will raise your children.

Types of Wills

There are various types of Wills recognized by the courts. The kind of will you choose depends on several things. One of those factors is how big or financially complicated your estate is.

“Simple” or Routine Wills

Calling this Will “simple” is misleading because no Will is truly simple. A better name might be a “routine” Will. This is used when you want to document your basic wishes, and you don’t have multiple clauses and stipulations. You still appoint an Executor who ensures your wishes are followed. You can also designate Guardianship for anyone you have the responsibility of caring for.

Testamentary Trust Wills

A Testamentary Trust is a trust created inside of a Will. Sometimes it’s called a Children’s Trust. It’s designed to delay the distribution of the assets to your children, so that a Trustee can manage their inheritance until your children are old enough to make good financial decisions. These types of Testamentary Trusts can be be used for a child who has special needs, as well. With a Testamentary Trust, the trust is established only after you die. Testamentary Trusts go through probate. They typically are used to provide for children until they reach an age such as 25 or 30, or for children with special needs.

Online Wills

An online Will is pretty self-explanatory as far as a definition goes. When these Wills are done correctly, they offer adequate protections, and the cost is significantly lower than the traditional Will preparation. Remember, you should be careful if you want to use online formats for creating your Will.

Confirm that the Will you create is legal and binding and the company you are using is reputable. The documents you create must be legally binding when it comes time to use them.

Self Proving Wills

Your written Will should be Self Proving if at all possible. All of the above types of Wills (Routine Wills, Testamentary Trust Wills, and Online Wills) can be made self proving. That requires a valid Will document, that has been properly signed, witnessed and notarized. This step avoids complications later, and helps to make certain that your Will is valid when submitted to the courts.

Holographic Wills

A Will that is written and signed by hand is called a Holographic Will. This kind of Will isn’t common, but it does exist. A handwritten Will is usually created in extreme, unexpected, or life-threatening situations. Holographic Wills are often challenged because of confusing, inaccurate or missing language.

Nuncupative Wills

Nuncupative Wills are spoken. A Nuncupative Will, like a Holographic Will isn’t always recognized the same way in each state. Some of them don’t recognize Holographic Wills as binding. A Noncupative, or Deathbed Will is a verbal statement given when you are close to death. This is the least effective type of Will. These Wills are usually stated in extreme conditions, so there can be a variety of problems. Questioned mental capacity and uncertain dispositions are two of the most common.

Final Thoughts

Too many people fail to have a Will that works for them, because they get confused or fail to get the right help. Just remember that it’s clear that everyone needs a Will. This is especially true of those with young children, or who want to ensure that everything will pass to their surviving spouse.