A will is an estate planning instrument that permits a person, sometimes known as a “testator,” to specify how their property will be transferred after death. Real and personal property are both examples of property that can be disposed of in a will.
In most states, in order for a will to be valid, it must include all of the following:
- Put it in writing.
- The testator must sign.
- Although it is not usually required, a will should be dated to reduce uncertainty about the correct one if there are numerous wills.
- If the testator cannot sign, for example, because they cannot use their hands, they can make a mark (such as an X), and the witnesses signing can certify that the testator did sign it.
- At least two competent witnesses must witness it. Furthermore, the witnesses are not normally interested, which means they cannot be mentioned in the will or otherwise have a stake in it.
“Testamentary capacity” is required of the testator. Testamentary capacity is typically met if the testator is over the age of 18, in the military, or legally married, and understands:
- That they are creating a will.
- That the will’s effect is to distribute their property upon their death.
- That they understand the property in which they are distributing.
- That they understand who will receive the property.
The conditions mentioned above, however, will change based on the state in which the testator resides and the type of will. For example, if the will is holographic, it usually does not need to be witnessed as long as it is written and signed by the testator.
What Are Some Tips for Writing a Will?
It is generally recommended that a person write a will so that their property can be passed to their survivors as they desire. Here are some recommendations and pointers to follow while writing a will to avoid having a will invalidated and to avoid will disputes:
- Understand the legislation in your jurisdiction: Wills, trusts, and estate laws vary greatly by state and region. A preliminary study helps you understand what you can and cannot accomplish in your will.
- Understand the fundamental requirements for creating a legally binding will: Having a clear mind or “mental capacity,” having the document signed and witnessed, including a sentence indicating that the document is a will, naming an executor, and a variety of other stipulations.
- Think about your entire estate: In your will, you should strive to cover as much of your estate as feasible. This provides a more thorough view of the overall intent of your assets and property.
- Gather the relevant documents: You should organize your financial paperwork so they can be quickly referenced. This contains bank statements, debt claims, and tax data.
What Happens When a Will Isn’t Valid?
A person is considered to have died “probate” if they die without a will or if their will is ruled to be invalid. In this situation, their property will be dispersed per their home state’s probate procedures and will be subject to rather stringent inheritance regulations.
The probate process can be difficult for the survivors of a deceased individual since it takes time and may result in diverse distribution results. In addition, the lack of a legitimate will makes it difficult for the survivors to determine what the individual intended to happen with their property.
In some situations, other documents may be referred to determine property distributions, but in most cases, the property will simply be allocated according to probate guidelines.
What Happens If I Pass Away Without Making a Will?
If you die without making a will, you are considered to have died intestate. In summary, dying intestate implies passing away without drafting a will to divide your assets. Each state has its own rules regarding what happens to your property if you die intestate.
However, a popular intestacy distribution strategy is for your property to be divided equally among your surviving family members at the first generational level and then distributed in equal shares. This means that your spouse or children may not receive your property according to your wishes, as state law determines who receives what share of your property.
Furthermore, if you want your siblings or parents to inherit certain items after you die, you should write a will before you die to specify who gets what. It should be noted that a will cannot disperse some property.
Can I Make My Own Will?
As previously said, there are ways to make a will on your own. For example, you may be able to use an online pre-made estate planning form or document to assist you in drafting a will in compliance with your state’s rules. As previously said, you may simply write a holographic will, which is a will written in your own handwriting and signed by you.
On the other hand, pre-made internet forms or holographic wills are frequently not the finest, or even the least expensive, solutions for writing a will that distributes your property per your intentions. Making a suitable will is critical for safeguarding the distribution of your possessions after your death and protecting your family.
For example, if you write a properly witnessed and self-attested will, your family may avoid the probate procedure, saving them significant time and money. It may also help decrease the number of people contesting your will.
Can I Modify My Will?
Yes, you can make adjustments or additions to a will. In general, there are two ways to change how your property will be allocated in your will:
- Codicils: A codicil is a written modification or addition to your will; or
- A New Will: The alternative option for changing a will is to renounce it and write a new one. As previously stated, it is critical to date the wills to assist the court in determining which will arrive later and govern.
You don’t need an excuse to change your mind. If you wish to change your mind, you have every right to do so. You have the right to amend your will to prevent one of your successors, such as a child, from inheriting.
Is it Possible to Make a Will for Someone Else?
You may choose to make a will on behalf of another individual under some circumstances. For example, the person may be disabled or unable to make their own will. This is generally permissible as long as the subject grants their consent.
For this to happen, they may need to use a power of attorney, which gives the other person the authority to make a will on their behalf. In many circumstances, a power of attorney can be signed before the individual becomes too ill or too old to make legal judgments.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Help Me Write a Will?
Making a will, whether for yourself or on behalf of another person, may necessitate the advice of a knowledgeable will lawyer. Will requirements are stringent; failure to comply can have serious ramifications for a person’s assets in the future. Your local lawyer can assist you in reviewing the will documents and even represent you in court if necessary.