Q: What Is A Last Will & Testament?
A: A last will and testament is your family's
key to future security.
When you pass on, you certainly want the security
of knowing that your estate is going to be in good
hands. Beyond that, you also want to know that you're
going to be able to choose to whom what goes. Everyone
has a favorite, whether it is a child or a grandchild,
a brother or sister, or even a niece or nephew.
You certainly don't want him or her to be left out in the cold
if your estate falls into the hands of the probate system, do you?
A last will and testament is, indeed, a way to give you peace of
A lot of people make the mistake of believing that simply saying,
"Such and such goes to so and so," is enough. It isn't,
unfortunately. The courts need visible proof, whether it's in handwriting
or on video. The more you have -- that is, the more comfortable
you are in life -- the more difficulty there will be in getting
your estate together if you don't write a will. Last wills and testaments
are legal documents written by the owners of estates large or small.
They constitute a guarantee to their beneficiaries and to their
authors: the courts will recognize the wishes outlined upon the
testaments, and, hence, keep the estate out of probate.
Q: Why should you write a will?
A: Beyond the reasons outlined above, there are several others
that are important factors in you writing your will. In most cases,
the reasons for writing a will are common sense -- after all, you
know what best to do with your money after your passing; you know
what to do so that your legacy will be continued. If you don't,
then writing a will enables you to speak to an estate advisor or
lawyer, so that you can get advice on what next you need to do.
- Financial Security
For yourself, for your descendants (or to whomever you decide to
grant part of your estate), financial security can be found in your
will. In it, you can emphasize your plans for your money and valuables,
make sure that your family is taken care of in the event of your
untimely death. The will is a legal document, so you can use it
in court if need be, whether you're being sued, or if you're having
another kind of dispute.
- Protection of Assets
Your will is very much like a trust, only it is reserved only for
after your death instead of after a certain date. This is a legal
document that must be signed and witnessed. It bears the downside
of trusts in that you cannot necessarily deter your beneficiaries'
creditors. However, if you reserve parts of your estate for a beneficiary,
then creditors will have a harder time going after the funding from
- Continuity of your Estate
Q: What is involved in writing a will?
- Attention to your state's laws
Many states have different laws regarding the writing of wills.
Some require three witnesses while others only require two. Some
require that the witnesses be eighteen years of age or older, while
others do not. Some require a certain attention to detail while
others do not. In most states, you can be as specific (down to the
last piece of silverware or the final chez in your home) or not
as you want. It's better to be safe and know.
- Legal language
The legal jargon of a will can be difficult to nail down if you're
not too experienced in writing legal documents. "I, ________,
do hereby certify
" It isn't so hard when you have some
advice. You can look up tutorials online or you can talk to a legal
counselor about it.
Every will needs witnesses -- that is, people who are present when
you sign your will, and who can sign beneath your name. This is
so that there is proof that you indeed wrote the document.
You do indeed need to sign your will, so that there is proof that
you wrote it, as said above.
Q: What are some free ways?
Believe it or not, writing a will doesn't have to be a huge expense!
- Holographic wills
Holographic wills are those that have been written entirely by hand,
signed, and witnessed. Only a few states accept these, so be careful
if you choose to write one. Know the laws of the state you live
in, and, of course, the state you'll die in.
- Free will and testament forms
The Internet is a wonderful medium for people who wish to write
last wills and testaments for free. On some legal websites, there
are downloadable forms with which you can write a simple will. These
free forms are viable, just as any other will might be, so long
as it is signed and witnessed properly. You may modify them as you
see fit, then be sure that you have the proper notarization; the
courts will recognize your will as complete and legitimate.
Q: What are the other ways?
- Video wills
Wills done by video are all the rage now. You can write your will,
read it on camera, and then sign it on camera, along with your witnesses.
This is to remove all doubt of the fact that the will is yours and
wasn't written or read under duress.
- Downloadable will forms
Last will and testament forms are meant to help you with the organization
and the execution of your final wishes, so that when you pass on,
your belongings are distributed precisely the way you want them
to be amongst your survivors. Most usually, last will and testament
forms are available through lawyers, estate counselors, and websites
offering legal advice. They are designed in such a way as to aid
you with the use of legal jargon so that you can avoid problems
with the courts, and, too, so that you can quickly and efficiently
write your document to give your friends and family peace of mind.