In the event that you pass away, it is beneficial to have a will to state your final wishes for your family and property. You may specify the heirs of your assets, the guardian for any minor children, and the person who will manage the transfer of your property, called the executor.
Creating a will can maximize the probability that your wishes will be respected after you die. It also helps your family to understand what you want for your property, which may reduce possible conflict among your beneficiaries. If you have underage children, a will can also determine their care after your death. Ultimately, making a will can give you peace of mind because it organizes your affairs in case anything happens to you.
Legal Requirements of a Will
To create a will in the United States, there are a few requirements by which you must abide. First, the government demands that you must be an adult who is sound of mind, meaning you have the mental capacity to understand the property you possess and to whom you want it to be given.
Your will must also name beneficiaries for your property. You can designate transfer for as much or as little of your property as you desire, but it is important to realize that left-over property will be distributed by the court. To be legal, you must sign the document along with witnesses. It may be a good idea to get your will notarized as a further method of protection in case it is disputed.
A person may also create a holographic will, which is a will that is written without witnesses, or an oral will, which are spoken wills. These are not generally accepted in court; however, so it is important that you pursue a version that the courts will recognize and respect.
Types of Wills
There are different types of wills that a person may create, depending on his or her needs. An estate planning attorney can assist in the drafting of a will, or review it to make sure that it meets all the legal requirements. A last will and testament, also known as a testamentary will, is the legal document that details how your property will be distributed and the manner in which your dependents will be taken care of.
Unlike a last will and testament, a living will specifies your wishes for your medical treatment so that it will be handled according to your wishes, even if you are unable to express them at the time it is needed
Limitations of Wills
There are certain end-of-life functions that a will is unable to carry out. A will cannot transfer certain funds, such as community property, which will automatically belong to the co-owner at the time of your death. In addition, you cannot leave retirement benefits, pensions, stocks, and life insurance policies, as these already have beneficiaries named on their documents.
You should also refrain from leaving funeral instructions on your will, as it will not usually be read until a few days or weeks after your passing. It is better to leave funeral arrangements in a separate document. Wills also cannot avoid probate or reduce estate tax. Assets that are being transferred are subject to federal estate tax and the probate process. To avoid these, you may want to look into
setting up a trust.
You may also want to look into a trust if you want to put stipulations on the inheritance that your beneficiaries will receive. A will cannot facilitate limitations on gifts that you leave to your heirs. Conditional gifts may be transferred through a spendthrift trust.
Establishing the terms of a trust or the conditions of a will is a highly complex process that needs to be handled according to specific legalities that will be best advised by a estate planning lawyer. There are different types and methods of completing these tasks, and in order to do so correctly you will need to ensure that you have a comprehensive understanding of the conditions, as well as a knowledgeable expert on your side that will support and guide you through the process.
If you want to dispute the validity of a will, then you will definitely need a lawyer to help you file a will contest. They can help you find all the necessary evidence and represent you throughout the court process.