A Last Will and Testament is also known as:
Will and Testament
A last will and testament is a legal document that details how a person's assets and properties will be distributed after their death. This legal document can also specify custody and guardianship details for the surviving children.
To complete your will, you should have a clear idea about what you want to happen to your financial and real estate assets. You should have personal information for the parties that will be receiving these assets in the event of your death. If you have the information you need, you can create a will without a lawyer's assistance.
The short answer is yes. If you are a legal adult, you need a last will and testament. Dying without a will is known in the legal world as dying "intestate". Essentially, if you have not made your wishes known and legally binding through a will, the state will decide how your property is divided. If you have a spouse or legally recognized partner but no children, then they receive all of your property. If you have children or have no legal partner, the estate's distribution has the potential to become confusing. In extreme instances, everything you own could become the state's property, simply because there was no legally binding will at the time of death.
You aren't required to hire a lawyer to create your will. However, it is best to seek legal counsel regarding the best course of action for planning your estate, given your financial circumstances. If you decide to do this on your own, there are many D.I.Y. books and online resources that can help you to do so (see our last will form above).
In this first section, state your name (the Testator or Testatrix) in the appropriate area. In this case, a Testator is an individual who will be releasing their belongings, possessions, and assets to other individuals once they pass away.
In this section, declare your marital status. If you are married, separated, engaged, or widowed, please list the other individual's name.
First, declare how many children you have. For each child, provide his or her name, date of birth, and whether they are living or deceased.
In this step, you will be listing your burial wishes and arrangements. If you know where you would like your funeral home arrangements made, or if arrangements have already been made, provide the following information:
If you will have a repast following your service, provide the following details:
If you've made burial arrangements, provide the Cemetery Name and Address.
Also, if you have any memorial wishes, or if you'd like your ashes spread over a body of water or something similar, specify these wishes in this step as well.
This section addresses your debts and expenses. In this section, declare the state laws in which taxes, debts, assets, etc., will be subject to.
If you own a home or property, specify that here. Provide the address of your home/property
If you wish for someone to take care of your pets after you pass away, provide the following information of your appointed caretaker or pet organization:
Also, provide the following information for each pet:
This section will allow you to appoint your Trustee or Executor. Do this by providing your Executor/Trustee's name and his or her relationship to you. Be sure to provide an alternative in case your primary Trustee or Executor is unavailable.
Also, if you have Digital Assets, be sure to appoint a Digital Executor. Digital assets are assets like royalties, copyrights, etc. If you have Digital Assets, be sure to list a Digital Executor by providing the following information:
Besides, provide the same information for an Alternate Digital Executor:
This portion allows the Testator to certify and seal the will, stating that they are of sound mind, and these are their wishes.
First, input your name (the Testator) the appropriate area, and sign, certifying that these are your wishes. Next, provide the following information for each witness:
First Witness' Signature, and;
Second Witness' Signature, and;
If you don’t have a will, the laws of your state will determine how your property is distributed. This means that your loved ones may not receive the property you wanted them to have.
Here are are some common scenarios about how your assets would be distributed without a will:
Single with no children: Your parents receive your entire estate. If one parent is living, that parent will generally receive your entire estate. If no parents are living, the whole estate is divided among siblings. If none of these scenarios apply, other relatives may be able to inherit.
Single with children: Generally, the entire estate is equally divided among the children. If there are no living children, the estate goes to grandchildren. If there are no grandchildren, other intestate laws are followed to determine appropriate heirs. If there are no heirs, the state may take possession of the estate.
Married with no children: Estate goes to the spouse.
Married with children: Estate goes to surviving spouse (assuming children are yours and your spouses). In some states, the spouse receives one half, and the other half is divided among surviving children from different marriages.
Unmarried couples: Intestate laws only recognize married couples. Eligible individuals do not usually have a legal claim to their partner's property if they die.
Domestic partners: Laws vary widely by state, but generally, a local partner has the same rights as a surviving spouse.
Any person of legal age (usually 18 years of age) may make a Last Will, although an exception may be made if you are married, in the military, or have been legally emancipated.
Most states require that you must be of "sound mind" to make a valid Will which means:
You understand you are making a Will and you know what a Will is;
You understand your relationship to the people mentioned in your Will; and
You understand the types and amount of property you own and how you wish to distribute it
Most of your property can be given away in a will, but there are a few important exceptions:
A home owned jointly with your spouse
IRAs, 401k(s), and pension plans
Any assets in a trust
A Last Will & Testament is an estate planning document that expresses how you'd like your property dealt with after you die. Even if you don't have any assets, a Last Will & Testament is still an important document. It is also used to name a person to take care of your minor children upon your death. It also cuts down the amount of time it takes for your family or friends to legally manage your affairs.Read More
Medical power of attorney names your preferred person to act on your behalf in relation to your future medical decisions. It prepares for the possible eventuality of your becoming unable to express your wishes in regard to your health care, or the possibility of becoming incapacitated through accident or condition.Read More
Guardianship forms apply to an appointed person who has legal rights to make decisions on behalf of another named person, such as a child or vulnerable adult. It may apply to a specific period, or be lasting.Read More