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Don't make the mistake of thinking that only the rich, elderly or those with children need a last will and testament every adult can benefit from an estate plan, including a last will and testament. Wills and probate lawyers can work with you to devise an estate plan that explains how your assets should be distributed after your death. Your lawyers can craft a strategy to reduce estate taxes and help ensure the financial security of your spouse and children. Wills and probate law firms can also guide estate executors through the probate process.
Types of Wills:
A lot of different types of wills are described below. Since states alter in the types of will used; check with lawyers to make sure the type of will you are making is accepted in your state if you are doing your own wills.
A simple will is one that provides for the outright distribution of assets for an uncomplicated estate. You can buy an easy to fill out a form for a simple will from a stationery store, or take one out of a book. Most lawyers put their standard will form into a computer and have a secretary type in the client's name, the names of the people the client wants his or her property to go to, and other basic information exactly what you can do for yourself when you make your own will with software.
A will contest, in the law of property, is a formal objection raised against the validity of a will, based on the contention that the will does not reflect the actual intent of the testator that the will is otherwise invalid.
A holographic will is one you prepare in your own handwriting. In some states, no witnesses are required. Holographic wills are recognized in about twenty states.
A statutory will is a “fill-in-the-blank”, “check the boxes” form that is easy to fill out, inexpensive to prepare, but very limited in its uses. Only a few states accept a statutory will.
A testamentary trust will set up one or more trusts for the distribution of part or all of one’s estate at the time of death.
A pour-over will “pours over” property into a trust when you die. Property left through the will must go through probate before it is placed into the trust.
An oral will also call a nuncupative will, is spoken, rather than written. Few states recognize this type of will except in emergency situations.
A video will is read in front of a video camera by the testator. Generally, a video will supplement a written copy of the will.
A collective will is one that two people make together, each leaving all of their property and assets to the other. A collective will also stipulate how the assets will be distributed when the second person dies.
In some states, a will is self-proving when two witnesses sign under penalty of perjury that they observed the willmaker sign it and that he told them it was his will. If no one contests the validity of the will, the probate court will accept the will without hearing the testimony of the witnesses or other evidence. This type of will makes it easy for the court to accept the document as the true will of the person who has died, serving as testimony and avoids the delay and cost of locating witnesses at the time of probate.
A living will bear no relation to a conventional will and is not used to leave the property at death. A living will is a document that allows you to state what type of medical treatment you do or do not wish to receive should you be too ill or injured to communicate your wishes. It may also be referred to as an advance directive or a declaration.
If you are faced with imminent death, a deathbed will is often written. Though they are drawn up hastily, they are as legally binding as one prepared in advance, but relying on one to distribute your assets is risky since these types of wills are often contested.
When to Consult a Lawyer
You may want to talk to a lawyer if:
- You have questions about your will or other options for leaving your property.
- You expect to leave a very large amount of assets and they may be subject to estate tax unless you engage in tax planning.
- Rather than simply naming people to inherit your property, you want to make more complex plans, for example, leaving your house in trust to your spouse until he or she dies and then having it pass to your children from a previous marriage.
- You are a small business owner and have questions as to the rights of surviving owners or your ownership share.
- You must make arrangements for the long-term care of a beneficiary, for example, setting up a trust for an incapacitated or disadvantaged child.
- You fear someone will contest your will on grounds of fraud, or claim that you were unduly influenced, or weren't of sound mind when you signed it.
- You wish to disinherit, or substantially disinherit, your spouse. It's usually not possible to do this if your spouse objects, but a lawyer can explain your spouse's rights.
Who Is Entitled to a Copy of the Will?
Anyone who is an immediate family member of the deceased, whether or not he or she is listed in the will, is legally entitled to view a copy. The same applies to anyone who is listed in the will as a beneficiary. Legal or financial advisers and professionals involved with the estate such as trustees, appointed lawyers, and probate judges or any court officials involved in its filing are also entitled to view the wall. Those are the primary parties who may request access to a will, but there are other fewer groups of people that also have a legal right to view and receive copies of the document.
A Wills Prepared by a Lawyers
If you decide to see a lawyer, your next task will be to find one who is knowledgeable about wills, charges a reasonable fee, and will respect your efforts to make your own will. This may not be easy, but it shouldn't be impossible. See Find an Excellent Lawyer. Also, some people simply feel more comfortable having a lawyer review their will, even though their situation has no apparent legal complications. Wills prepared by lawyers is professionally prepared and individually designed for you.
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