When preparing your will, it’s highly recommended that you have a clear understanding of your overall goals and intentions. You should make your will documents as clear as possible in order to avoid any will disputes or legal contests in the future. Some tips and pointers when preparing a will include:
- Consider Your Entire Estate and All Your Assets: You should account for all your belongings and assets when preparing your final will. That way, your property won’t be transferred without your knowledge or against your desires;
- Name and Describe the Property as Clearly as Possible: The property items listed in your will should be clearly identifiable solely from your will descriptions. This will help avoid confusion and potential disputes over the items;
- Name the Beneficiaries Clearly: In a similar way, you should name beneficiaries (recipients of the property) as clearly as possible. Try to use their names in combination with their relationship to you and to others mentioned in the will; and
- Include Specific Terms and Clauses: You may wish to include additional clauses in your will as needed. This can include terms dealing with modifying the will or cancelling a will if another will needs to be made.
The main idea is to be as clear and precise as you can in order to avoid potential legal disputes or conflicts over the way that your property is to be distributed.
For instance, if a specific property item is described in an ambiguous way in a will document, then the beneficiaries may dispute over that item because they can’t tell exactly which property is being referred to. This can be prevented by clear, unambiguous descriptions of property in the will.
What are Some Terms to Know When Preparing My Will?
One of the most important aspects when preparing and drafting a will is to understand what some of the basic terms mean. Common will terms can include:
- Testator: This is the person who is making or creating the will;
- Beneficiary: These are the persons who are to receive distributions from the will;
- Capacity: This refers to the ability to make a will. A person needs both legal capacity (i.e., they must be at least 18 years old) as well as mental competency to make a valid will;
- Executor: This is the person appointed by the testator to handle will issues after their death; and
- Witnesses: These are persons who are present during the formal signing of the will. Most states require at least two non-interested witnesses be present.
- Decedent: This is the person who passed away. This is the person who passed away, which in this case would also be the person who created the will. This can be used interchangeably with testator.
What are Some Types of Wills?
Another important aspect of wills is that there are different types of wills. It is helpful to know the different types when you go to prepare your own will. The most common will classifications include:
- Self-Proving Wills: These are wills that have been properly witnessed and signed according to all of the formalities required by state law. This is the most common type of will;
- Holographic Wills: These are wills that are handwritten without the presence of formal witnesses. Very few states recognize these types of wills; when they do, it is usually only under limited, specific circumstances;
- Oral Wills: These types of wills are unwritten dispositions of property, where the individual orally communicates their wishes. Oral wills are only recognized as valid in a few states, and usually only in compelling situations.
For the most part it is recommended to try and create a self-proving will. This is the best choice to help avoid will disputes, as self-proving wills generally fulfill the will requirements under state law.
What are Some Common Will Disputes?
Legal disputes during the process of preparing a will can frequently arise. For instance, there may be some conflict as to what a certain term in a will means, or which property a word refers to. These may require a rewording of the terms of the will. In some cases, the will may be replaced with an entirely new will.
Some other common will disputes may include:
- Disputes over which beneficiaries are mentioned;
- Disputes regarding the way the property is to be distributed amongst the beneficiaries;
- Conflicts over the named will executor;
- Conflicts regarding a specific property item (such as a piece of heirloom jewelry); and
- Legal conflicts regarding the way the will is written (for instance, if the will is not written in a way that fulfills all state requirements).
Will disputes commonly occur after the testator has passed away. This can be problematic, as it will then become more difficult to determine what the testator’s actual intentions were. In such situations, the will executor may be required to make decisions on behalf of the decedent’s estate.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help Preparing My Will?
Preparing a will can present various legal challenges and concerns, and should be done with great care. You may need to hire a wills, trusts, and estates lawyer if you need help preparing a will. Your attorney can advise you of the various legal options available under your state’s will and estate laws. Also, a qualified attorney near you can assist you if you need help filing a lawsuit due to a will dispute.