If you wish to go about your last will to keep your dependents secure from any risks or uncertainties, this article will help you provide in-depth information to find the best ways.
Life is so unpredictable that you can’t even know where it takes you in a couple of seconds. The last will and testament is a legal document that expresses a person’s wishes on how their property will be distributed after their death and which person is to manage the property until its final distribution. It shows all the final wishes pertaining to assets and dependents. A person’s last will and testament tell what to do with possessions, whether the deceased will leave them to another person, a group, or donate them to charity.
In addition, the last will and testament state what happens to other things that they are responsible for, such as custody of dependents and management of accounts and financial interests. Some states allow for non-standard or unusual wills, such as a holographic will, while others do not offer this. This article will help you learn the details regarding the last will and testament, its importance, and other relevant information.
What is the last will and testament?
The last will or testament is a document stating a person’s wishes on how their property will be distributed after their death and which person will manage the property until its final distribution. If a will does not determine the distribution of the property, people can check out inheritance and intestacy. A list will refer to the real property, while a testament applies only to personal property. Thus mentioning both properties gives rise to the title ‘the last will and testament.’ The historical records show that the terms have been used interchangeably.
Furthermore, a will may also create a testamentary trust that is effective only after the testator’s death. If parents with children die without a last will and testament, the courts will appoint a guardian for their minors in this case. Trusts and life insurance policies having the names of beneficiaries mentioned do not pass through probate court. Today, wills can be formulated affordably using an online will maker. In another case, if you die intestate, your estate is settled by the courts, including the distribution of all assets. Your will should name your primary beneficiaries and what they will receive from your estate.
If you want your brother to inherit your sports car, your ‘will’ indicate that. But it should go one step further and state who would receive the vehicle if your brother predeceased you. The probate procedure is necessary to move ownership of many of your assets to living individuals. Not leaving a will won’t avoid it unless you have formed an alternate estate plan, such as a living trust.
How does a will work?
A will simply work as a legal document in which you, the testator, declare who will manage your estate after you die. Your estate can consist of big, expensive things such as vacation homes and small items, such as photographs, that might hold sentimental value. When settling your estate, a will must state what powers you want your executor to have. It should name a caretaker to overlook for your children until they become adults if their other parent predeceases you or dies with you in a common event. It also designates a conservator to manage any assets or cash you bequeath to your children because minors cannot own property.
A will can only deal with your probate support. These are items of property you possess that have no other way of passing to a living person without the probate process. Life insurance benefits, real estate held by joint tenants with the rights of survivorships, and many retirements plan to name beneficiaries directly. These are non-probate assets, and they will pass to those individuals outside of your will by the process of law.
Once you and your witness sign your will, it is considered executed. If you were to die, your executor could submit your will to the court for it to be probated. Between the time you complete your will and the time you die, you should review your will periodically to determine if you would like to amend it in any respect. You can amend your will at any time before your death. Here are some of the reasons why you might want to amend your will:
- You dispose of the property.
- You change your charitable interests.
- You experience a significant life change, like getting married, getting divorced, having another child, and adopting a child.
- You acquire more property.
- You make new relationships or terminate old relationships.
- You want to name a different successor executor.
Types of will
Before you make a will, you need to choose which type best fits your situation. You can consider several different will types when creating your estate plans. Here is the list of different types of wills:
➢ Living wills
Despite the name, a living will is not a will; it is a legal document that lets you outline your end-of-life care preferences in case you become unable to communicate them. For example, your living will let you specify which medical treatments and medications you want and don’t like and if you wish to be an organ donor. It helps you maintain control over your healthcare and avoid putting the burden of potentially painful or difficult decisions on your loved ones. Living wills are also called ‘Advance Healthcare Directives.’
➢ Joint will
Joint wills are the wills within one document for two people. These can be used in cases where spouses want to initially make each other beneficiaries when one passes and then establish final beneficiaries being a child or children once both partners are gone. Keep in mind that the joint will automatically become irrevocable upon the first spouse’s death.
➢ Deathbed will
Deathbed wills are not desirable for many reasons. The main reason is that they are not as effective as other types of wills. Made on a deathbed while under dire circumstances, there are often questions about mental stability and how comprehensive a deathbed will be. Any will is better to have than no will at all. Deathbed wills are more than possible to create problems for your loved ones after you die.
➢ Testamentary trust will
Testamentary trust wills are sometimes referred to as will trusts or as a trust under wills. They are written inside a will and can be used to handle asset distribution after your death. This type of trust differs from other trusts because it is not formed until after your death. Testamentary trust wills can be a good choice if you want to set up long-term care for beneficiaries. Whereas most trusts let you avoid it, testamentary trust wills will go through probate, which can be a considerable disadvantage.
➢ Simple will
As the name suggests, simple wills are wills that are simple in that they do not contain a lot of clauses. However, just because they are simplistic doesn’t mean they can’t be effective. You can do much of your essential planning in a simple will, including designating a guardian for minors and appointing an executor. Simple wills may not be the best option for every complicated or extensive estate.
➢ Pour-over will
Pour-over will work in conjunction with revocable living trusts. These are planned to offer more privacy than a regular last will and testament and work by “pouring over’ any aids that don’t directly go to a beneficiary into your trust after you expire. Pour-over wills are useful if you have not put everything into your trust. Property must go through probate before it ends in your trust, which can take time and money and cause stress to your loved ones.
➢ Online will
Online wills are a reasonably new concept in the world of Estate planning. There are indeed trustworthy, authoritative sources out there to help you create a compelling and adequate online will. But you need to be cautious about which DIY online company you use to make your will or any other Estate planning documents. Not all online companies are the same. It’s an absolute must that you read online reviews.
Most importantly, be sure that whichever company you go with has state-specific documents and forms created, drawn up, and reviewed by actual layers and estate planning experts.
➢ Nuncupative will
Nuncupative wills are verbal explanations that express final wishes. Nuncupative wills are not identified in every state. In addition, some states have strict stipulations on what would authorize as a valid nuncupative will. For example, a state may remember them, but only if they have been written down after being spoken.
➢ Holographic will
Holographic will actually still occasionally exist. These are handwritten wills and are generally the result of extreme, unexpected occurrences such as war or another life-threatening situation. Holographic wills are not identified in every state.
How to write a last will and testament?
In order to make your last will, consult trained lawyers as they know how to construct your documents properly and can help advise you on things to consider while drafting the manuscript. However, if you want to make your will yourself, The following steps can help you to write:
1. Add information that identifies your personality
This is designed to eliminate doubts explicitly if you wrote the will. You can include your personal information such as your name, address, social security number, and driver’s license number.
2. Pinpoint your age and mental status
Verifying your age ensures you are suitable to write a will. Your age must be 18 years or above to make your own will. The same thing applies to confirming your mental status. This ensures you have a sound mind and body when writing a will. A mentally impaired person is not eligible to write a valid will.
In case your template doesn’t include where to specify your age and mental status, you can either write it out yourself or choose another last will and testament template.
3. Pick an executor
An executor oversees the actualization of your final wishes as stated in your last will and testament. This is the person who authorizes your will, reads it out after your death, and ensures your final instructions are executed. An executor can be any person of your choice who could do that. However, ensure you can trust the judgment and integrity of such a person.
4. Specify who takes care of your children
If you have children, you must address what happens to them if you pass away. For this reason, you must nominate someone to cater to them. In this way, you can be sure your legacy is sustained and they are kept in good hands. Choosing an unfit person is equal to choosing nobody. You must ensure you select a trusted person to take care of your children after you are gone.
Make sure you speak with anyone you choose about your desires and that person agrees with them before you include their name in your will. Give them a sense of your wishes before making a last decision. This will help you judge properly if such a person is suitable for the task.
5. Choose your beneficiaries
When you write your last will and testament, you are required to choose your beneficiaries. In this step, you have to decide who gets a share of your property, specifying the exact property each gets after you pass. This is a crucial stage as any wrong decision or mistake might cost you the opportunity to fulfill your wishes after you die. Selecting your beneficiaries with specialty also helps you avoid family issues during execution. There are no limitations to how many persons you can count as your beneficiary.
6. Specify your funeral details
This is another crucial factor of your last will and testament. Specifying your funeral details will make your final arrangements more manageable for your family members. They will likely be grieving, and it would be tougher having to figure out how you want to be buried themselves. It makes sure your family members honor your last wishes.
7. Sign your will
Sign and date your last will and testament. For validity, ensure the presence of at least two witnesses to add their signatures, too. Signing your last will and testament should be done in the existence of a notary. The notary has to add their signature, too, besides if the notary is also a witness. A notary signature also eradicates possible conflicts or doubts concerning your final wishes. Finally, your beneficiaries can’t be a witness. Therefore, you must carefully pick your witnesses to assure the validity of your will. Lastly, keep your last will and testament in a safe place so that it does not go missing.
What is the purpose of a last will and testament?
The primary purpose of the last will and testament is to outline what to do with the possessions, whether the deceased will leave them to another person, a group, or donate them to charity, and what ensues to other things that they are accountable for. These responsibilities include the custody of their dependents and managing accounts and financial interests. Essentially, a will is a legal document to ensure your money and estate are inherited by the people you want to benefit from and of equal importance. It doesn’t go to people who don’t want to benefit.
A will may be an essential document that you ever write because it allows you to select the persons who will receive what you own when you die. If you don’t have one in place, you cannot choose the recipients of your property, and the state you reside in will determine how your property is divided. You need to appoint at least one executor of your will, but you can pick up to four people or professionals.
If you choose friends and family, it’s recommended that you appoint at least two executors. This is because sole administrators have particular limitations that don’t apply to professionals.
Free last will and testament
Writing a last will and testament is not as complicated as it looks. You can simply choose a template and make your will. You have to answer a few questions and then share the document with a lawyer if needed. Then read it thoroughly again and sign it. Even if it is not mandatory, having two disinterested witnesses is a best practice. This method will end up being notably less expensive and less time-consuming than meeting and hiring your average attorney. If needed, you may fill out this last will and testament on behalf of a relative and then help them sign once you have drafted it.
Keep in mind that for this document to be accepted as lawfully valid, the testator must be an adult who is mentally proficient at the time of signing. If the testator has already been declared legally incapable, a conservatorship could be required. When dealing with this type of situation, it would be a good idea for you to connect with a lawyer.
Is it legal to write your own last will and testament?
You can create a handwritten document solely in your handwriting and signed by you, which can serve as your last will and testament. It is crucial to emphasize that no portion of the document may be typewritten, and no witnesses or notaries are required. Make sure the will you write is legal because laws concerning wills vary by state. It’s important to know what your state requires in order to make a will valid.
Generally, for most states, to execute a valid will, you need to be of a sound mind and over the age of 18. You can then sign the will and often have witnesses sign as well. These witnesses should also provide their full names and addresses in case they need to e contacted in the future regarding the will.
What makes a last will and testament valid?
A few factors make a will valid, such as the will must be in writing, signed by the testator, or by someone else under the testator’s direction and in their presence. Two witnesses must also sign it, and the will must be notarized. Otherwise, specific conditions must be met to specify its veracity. In New Jersey, some conditions make a will valid:
- The testator or person making the will must be at least 18 years old or above and of a sound mind.
- The will must be notarized.
- The will must be in writing, signed by the testator or by someone else at the testator’s supervision and in their presence. It must also be signed by at least two witnesses.
The bottom line
A last will and testament names a representative to handle your affairs upon your death and ensures that your assets are distributed according to your wishes. If you don’t want to risk the future of your dependents, make your will before it’s too late. There are different types of will, so you can choose the one that best fits your needs. The primary purpose of the last will and testament is to suggest what to do with the guardianship of financial property, whether the deceased will leave them to another person or a group or donate them to charity, and what happens to other things that they are accountable for.