|Most of us do
not like to think about the need to create a will, it is often something
we defer in our younger years, feeling it is not really necessary. However,
if someone dies without a will, things can get very complicated for remaining
family. It certainly helps if you have taken the time to declare
who should manage your estate on your demise. Death is an inevitability,
and the more we can have prepared for it, the easier it is for those we
leave behind. Most people concern themselves with preparing a will
as they get older, however,
a survey conducted by AARP
discovered that 2 out of 5 Americans over the age of 45 years did not have
it a good idea to have a will?
Having a legal will in place
is a good way to ensure that your property and assets are dispersed according
to your wishes. If no will is in place, your property will go to
your next surviving heir, and this may not be how you would have chosen
to disperse your possessions. Having a will can also take a lot of
the tension away from surviving family and remove the opportunity for disagreements
about who gets what. It allows you to remain in control of your estate
and how it should be managed upon your death.
Do I need to have a will
prepared by an attorney or lawyer?
No, you do not need to have
your will prepared by a lawyer or attorney. You need to ensure that
your will meets the legal requirements of your state, as state laws can
vary. An experienced estate-planning lawyer would be able to give
you specific and useful advice. The need for qualified legal advice
may depend upon the actual value of your estate.
These days there are various
DIY will kits and online websites that can facilitate you preparing your
own will. If you check with your local state’s Department of Aging
they may also be able to guide you to free or minimal cost help with estate
planning and will writing.
It is also a good idea as
you prepare a will to put other advance-planning strategies into place.
Creating a list of all your personal documents and contacts can be a great
help for surviving family in sorting your affairs out. Setting up
a financial or health care power of attorney can ensure your wishes and
rights are protected if you become incapable of making decisions in your
It is important to ensure
your will has been properly witnessed to ensure it is valid according to
the laws of the state you are in.
What should be outlined
in a will?
A will is simply a document
that outlines how your estate should be managed after you die. Your
estate includes everything you own, be it large items such as a home, or
small sentimental possessions. You name an ‘executor’ of your will
and that is the person in whom you put the trust to execute the wishes
you have outlined in your will. In other words, he or she will distribute
your estate as you have requested. You can even itemize certain possessions
you have and who should get them.
If you have young children
or dependents, you can also specify who should become the legal guardian
of your children. This can be especially important these days with
so many separated families.
should check the rules for your
state. And even of the states that had inheritance tax, many states
have been phasing it out.
if I die and haven’t made a will?
If you die and you haven’t
made a will, then you become what is known as ‘intestate’. This means
that your estate is settled depending on the laws of the state you live
in and how they specify who has the rights to inherit. As there is
no executor named, the state will appoint an administrator to serve in
this role. Probate is the legal system of transferring the property
of a deceased person to their heirs. The rules for federal estate
tax have been changing in recent years and you
What is the difference
between a will and a living will?
A will is a declaration of
what is to happen with your estate when you die. A living will is a declaration
of what kind of medical care you wish to receive if you become incapacitated
and cannot express your wishes. It can prevent estranged family,
or medical practioners, taking control over your medical care. It
is sometimes referred to as an “advance directive”. It bears no relation
to what is outlined in your conventional will.
These days’ people are more
aware of the value of having a living will in order to make sure that they
are not given extensive medical care to be resuscitated. Or to help
govern senior care years when they may not want their life to be artificially
extended. Having a living will is a choice many now make to ensure
that they are in control of their own end-of-life care and to pursue their
own dignity in dying.
Can I have a joint
will with my spouse?
This is generally not recommended,
and in fact, some states do not even legally recognize joint wills.
It is highly unlikely that both of you will die at the same time, and many
assets will not be jointly held. For this reason, it makes practical
sense to have separate wills. It can be even more important these
days with the high divorce and re-marrying rates. Probate laws more
often sway towards the current spouse, so if you have possessions or property
from a former marriage that you particularly wish to be left to children
from that marriage, it is better to have that outlined in your will.
For more tips visit our section
on Putting Your Affairs in