What are Some Guidelines for Making a Will?

It’s generally advisable for a person to create a will so that they can have their property distributed to their survivors in the way that they want.  When making a will, here are some guidelines and pointers to avoid having a will invalidated, and to avoid will disputes:

  • Have some understanding of the laws in your area:  the laws governing wills, trusts, and estates can vary widely by state, and even by region.  Doing some preliminary research can help you understand what you can and can’t do in your will
  • Understand the basic requirements for drafting a valid will:  These can include having a sound mind “mental capacity”; having the document signed and witnessed; ensuring that there is a clause indicating that the document is a will; appointing an executor; and various other provisions
  • Consider your entire estate:  You should try to cover as much of your estate as possible in your will.  This helps give a complete picture of the overall intent with regards to your assets and property.
  • Compile all relevant documents:  You should make your best efforts to organize your financial documents so that they can be referenced easily.  This includes bank account statements, debt claims, and tax information

What Happens if a Will is Not Valid?

If person passes away without a will, or if their will is found to be invalid, they are said to have died “probate”.  In this case, their property will be distributed according to the probate laws of their home state, and will be subject to somewhat rigid inheritance laws. 

The probate process can often be challenging for the survivors of the deceased person, because it takes some time and may yield different distribution results.  Also, not having a valid will makes it very difficult for the survivors to determine what exactly the person wished to happen with their property. 

In some cases, other documents may be referenced in order to determine property distributions, but in most cases the property will simply be distributed through probate guidelines. 

Is Making a Will for Someone Else an Option?

In some cases, you may wish to make a will on behalf of another person.  For example, the person may be incapacitated, or can’t make a will on their own.  Generally speaking, this is allowed, so long as the person gives their consent. 

For this to occur, it may be necessary for them to utilize a power of attorney, which would give the other person the authorization to make a will for them.  In many cases, the power of attorney can be signed early on, well before the person becomes too ill or too advanced in age to make legal decisions. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance in Making a Will?

Whether for yourself or on behalf of another person, you may need the assistance of a qualified estate lawyer when making a will.  Will requirements are very strict; if they aren’t followed properly, it can have negative consequences on a person’s estate in the future.  Your lawyer near you can assist you in reviewing the will documents, and can provide you with representation during court proceedings.