A will is the most important estate planning tool. It is formally known as a Last Will and Testament and is used to determine, among other things, the following upon your death:
- who receives your property and in what shares (beneficiaries).
- who manages the probate process (your executor).
- who will take care of your minor children (called the guardian).
The person who makes a will is referred to as the “testator”.
Will requirements by location
Select the relevant location below to view requirements, Will Forms and other information regarding making a Last Will and Testament in your location.
Do I need a will?
Many people mistakenly believe they don’t have sufficient assets to warrant having a will. The truth is, everybody should have one. Not having a will causes difficulties for loved ones, leading to uncertainty and disputes.
Don’t assume that your spouse will just inherit your assets. Many states provide for the spouse to share your estate with the children when there is no will directing otherwise.
Even if you don’t have much, remember that a will is the only way to appoint a guardian for your minor children.
Some may tell you that having a living trust is all you need. Don’t trust anyone who tells you this because it’s simply not true. Whilst a living trust may include the majority of your assets, it doesn’t usually incorporate much of your personal property because of the hefty record keeping requirements. You need a will to deal with the residue.
What happens if I don’t have a will?
If you die intestate (without leaving a valid will) your estate will be distributed in accordance with state law. You don’t want to rely on intestate provisions if you die without a will. Your property can go to people you never intended. The court will choose an administrator to manage the probate process. The administrator is basically your executor but chosen by the court, rather than yourself.
If you have minor children, usually their other parent will end up with custody. If they have already died, then a relative or friend may apply to the court to be guardian. Failing this, your children will become part of the foster care process.
What are the requirements of a valid will?
Each country and state has their own statutes and codes to stipulate how a last will and testament must be drafted, signed and witnessed. The basic will needs your name, residential address, the executor, your beneficiaries and two (sometimes three) witnesses. If your will does not meet the legislative guidelines, it may be deemed invalid.
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