Wills—What are They?

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably heard of a Will before and might even have a sense of what it does. However, you might not know exactly what it can do, what the requirements to make one are, or how to write one. If that’s you, don’t worry; we’ve got you covered. This article will take a look at those things and help to clarify each issue one by one.

Many people use a Will to leave instructions as to what to do with their stuff when they die, but there are also other things it can do as well, such as:

  • Naming an executor 
  • Naming guardians for children and their property
  • Decide how debts and taxes are going to be paid
  • Providing for pets
  • And serving as a backup to a living trust

There are also things you shouldn’t use it for, like:

  • Putting conditions on gifts (i.e. giving your house to a child only if he or she finishes college)
  • Leaving instructions as to final arrangements
  • Leaving property to pets
  • Or making arrangements for money or property that’s going to be left another way (such as property in a trust or property for which a pay-on-death beneficiary has been named.)

If you’re concerned about legal requirements for making wills, don’t be too worried, as there aren’t that many requirements. However, the requirements must be met for a Will to be a legal and binding document. As such, you should consider visiting a legal professional to help you set up your Will. While each state has their own unique requirements,  generally speaking, in order to make a will in any U.S. state, you have to:

  • Know the property you have and what it means to leave it to someone after you die. In legal terms this is known as having “capacity” and it’s also called being of “sound mind.”
  • Create a document that names beneficiaries for at least some of your property
  • Sign the document.
  • And have the document signed by two witnesses.

No state requires a will to be notarized, though you can use a notarized self-proving affidavit to make the will move through probate easier after death. A few states even let you make a handwritten “holographic” wills that don’t require witness signatures. However, those should only be used when you don’t have enough time to make a formal will, as they are more susceptible to challenge after death.

You can write a will yourself or hire a lawyer to do it for you. If you do it yourself, make sure you have a good will writing tool to help. It should use clear, concise language that isn’t difficult to understand and accurately describes your final wishes. It should also explain any options you have and help to decide what to include in the will. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Do you want to name several levels of executors?
  • Do you want to name more than one executor to work together?
  • Do you want to name guardians for your children or their property?
  • Do you want to create a trust for your children, so they get your property when they are over 18?

Also, a good will making template will help you know when to seek a lawyer for help in writing the will. You should speak with a lawyer if you want to do any of the following:

  • Disinherit a spouse or child
  • You are worried someone might challenge the will
  • You want to provide money and care for pets after death
  • You want to retain control of your property long after you’re gone
  • Or you are worried about any estate taxes

As with all legal documents, if you have any questions or concerns then please seek the advice of a legal professional.