A WILL is what many people think of when they first consider estate planning.
This makes sense, as a properly drafted WILL should be the centerpiece of any estate plan, whether or
not you decide to create a more extensive plan. And many people decide that a WILL is all the planning
they need, at least for the time being.
As you undoubtedly know, a WILL specifies who gets property covered by that document
when you die. A WILL can also serve other vital purposes, such as appointing a personal guardian to
raise your minor children if you and the other parent arent available.
Property left by a WILL must normally go through Probate.
As you may be aware, Probate is usually costly and burdensome. If you would like your assets to pass to
your beneficiaries without the time and expense of Probate proceedings, you will need a more advanced
estate plan that will likely include a LIVING TRUST.
However, despite the downside of Probate, every estate plan should at least include
a backup WILL to cover things that Probate-avoidance devices dont address. For some
purposes, a simple WILL is the most appropriate estate planning vehicle. For example, if you have minor
children, a WILL is the only device that will allow you to name a guardian for your children. If you receive
property late in life and do not have time to transfer that property into your LIVING
or AB TRUST, this property will go to the residuary beneficiaries named in your WILL, who, by definition,
take the rest of (your) property - that is, everything that isnt left to some specific
Creating a legal Will requires that:
- You are at least 18 years of age and of sound mind;
- The WILL is clearly worded and readable;
- The WILL has at least one substantive provision, e.g., leaving some property to someone;
- At least one person is appointed Executor/Personal Representative;
- The WILL is dated;
- The WILL is signed in front of at least two, non-beneficiary
witnesses, who attest to that fact by their own signatures.
Because a legally enforceable WILL is often a rather short document, every
word carries significance. Without the appropriate use of terminology, your intent could be completely
undermined. Moreover, estate planning of any sort often involves complicated legal, financial and tax
consequences. Therefore, it is imperative that your WILL is properly drafted by a trained professional.
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