Why Write a Will?
The purpose of a will is to ensure that the wishes of a deceased person, regarding their last known possessions and dispositions, are fully carried out in the proper manner. If you die without a will, the state decides who gets what, without regard to your wishes or your heirs' needs. So-called intestacy laws vary considerably.
You will be able to fill in the details to customize your will as you gather the information required. You might want to take a look around your home and identify any specific personal property that you wish to specially bequest to a person or organization. Those things might include knicknacks, heirlooms, special photos or books, tableware, bedding, or kitchen items (things that have a legally defined ownership or ownership title paperwork.
Among other things, depending upon the will you create, you might need to eventually find:
- Names and Addresses of persons or organization receiving bequests
- Names and Addresses of persons who could be designated guardians of your children
- Names and Addresses of the executor or co-executors of your estate
- Legal descriptions of major properties or vehicles
For now, the best thing you can do is to plunge in and get started filling out the free will forms.
The FreeLawyer.com will creation application will keep track of everything you add and let you know where details are remaining to be needed. We wish you the best in completing this important task!
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Here is some additional background information about wills if you happen to be interested:
The legal age to make a will is 18 in every state except Georgia, where someone as young as age 14 can make a legal will. Wills can be in many formats, but the three most common are printed, oral and holographic. Most states define a holographic will as one that is entirely in the testator's handwriting and is not witnessed. Twenty-six states recognize holographic wills as legal. Louisiana places stringent requirements on holographic wills, Maryland accepts them only from members of the armed forces, and Ohio's statutes state specifically that a handwritten will is acceptable only if it is witnessed. Twelve states allow oral wills, and Washington only accepts an oral will from members of the military.
A will can be an ever-changing document. It can be updated or changed as often as you need. As your family changes in members, or your marital status changes, the will can be updated to reflect the most recent circumstances. A legal will is especially important to parents, as it is the most effective way to transfer guardianship of a minor.
Another useful document people with more complicated estates have is a revocable living trust. It is related to the will and deals with the distribution of specific assets in the will. Using a trust in conjunction with a will can help you minimize gift or estate taxes against your estate.What is Your Estate?
The goal is to make sure that your assets are stipulated in the will or trust that you create, so that those items are not subject to intestacy laws and are minimally impacted by probate. Assets include money, personal property, and possible investments or real estate.
Parts of a Will
FreeLawyer makes best efforts to ensure that the required parts of a will are included, by using our free will forms application. Although states vary regarding what is required, to make a will legally binding most insist on at least the following:
Title of the Document: The first part of the will should be its title, such as "Last Will and Testament of (insert name here)."
Declaration: A statement in which the testator (person the will is for) states his or her full name and residential address. Immediately following should be a declaration that the testator is of legal age to make a will and of sound mind and memory to do so. The testator must also declare that this document serves as her last will and testament, revoking all previously made wills and codicils. The declaration should include a statement that the testator is not under duress or undue influence to make the will. In drafting this part of the will, it is important to include as many personal details as possible. Be as complete as possible, addressing any former names, identification numbers and other personally identifying information.
Name of Executor: The executor is the person who the testator appoints to carry out terms of the will. Usually, the testator names the remaining spouse or main beneficiary of the estate as executor since they usually have the best knowledge of how the testator wants the estate divided up. Also, most people are choosing to also name an alternative executor, who will be in charge of the estate should anything happen to the primary executor.
Name of Guardian for Minor Children: An important consideration for parents of children of the age that they require a guardian. This section should include the name of the person who will be appointed legal guardian of the testator's children if both the testator and spouse die. For those naming a couple as legal guardian of the minor children, be sure to include both of their names.
Details of Beneficiaries: Be as specific as possible in this section of the will. Name each beneficiary, whether a child, spouse or old friend, as specifically as possible. Leave no doubt as to the identity of a beneficiary. Consider naming alternative beneficiaries in case of a simultaneous death.
Details About Assets: Distinguish here between assets that are already assigned to beneficiaries in the event of the testator's death and those that are not assigned. For example, assets that are not part of the will may include policies in which the testator has already specified a beneficiary, joint ownership or joint tenancy of property, payable-on-death bank accounts and trusts.
Bequests: Usually the most important part of the will, the bequests section should include exactly how the testator wants assets of his or her estate to be divvied up among the beneficiaries (people and organizations).
Signatures: A will should include the signature of the testator, as well as those of at least two witnesses. The testator's signature must be made in the presence of the witnesses, testifying that this is indeed his last will and testament. The actual date and place the document was signed must also be entered. It is recommended that the testator initial every page of the will. The witnesses should include their full names and addresses, as well as a declaration that they saw the testator sign the document. The will must be witnessed by legal adults.
A simple will can be easily created by most people without the advice of a lawyer. However, if you have any doubt, it is advised that you obtain legal assistance. Nonetheless, taking action in the matter and getting any will in place will usually result in a better outcome than simply leaving it to probate and intestacy laws. Few people are aware of their oncoming death, so being prepared will ensure your heirs easier resolution of your post-death matters and less anxiety for everyone involved.
Learn About Revocable Living Trusts