- What is a Will?
- Do I need an attorney to prepare my Will?
- Do I need a will?
- What happens if I die without a will?
- What qualifies a will?
Wills are an essential part of the estate planning process. An estate plan provides the legal
mechanism for the disposition of property upon death. A good estate plan recognizes your wishes
and the neeeds of your survivors, while minimizing taxes. It also includes the handling of affairs
in case of disability, and personal medical choices to be made in the event of a terminal or
catastrophic injury or illness.
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If you have minor children and want to express a preference for their future guardians, if you
wish to establish a trust for the beneift of your minor or adult children (with life insurance
proceeds or other assets from your estate), or if you wish for certain persons who could otherwise
be your heirs (children, siblings or parents for example), to not receive a portion of your estate,
you definitely need to have a Will. Without a Will, state law in force at the time of your death
dictates who receives the distribution of your estate and in what shares. Having a Will may also
serve to avoid family feuds over the distribution of even a small estate.
Married with children: The law in most states awards one-third to one-half of
the decendent’s property to the surviving spouse, and the remainder to the children, regardless of age.
Married with no children: Most states give one-third to one-half of the estate
to the survivor. The remainder goes to the decendent’s surviving parents.
Single person with children: The entire estate goes to the children.
Single person with no children: The estate goes to surviving parents. If both
parents are deceased, many states divide the property among the brothers and sisters.
For a writing to legally qualify as a Will, it must clearly appear to the court, that it was
intended to be the final expression of the Testator’s intent. Further a Will must be in writing,
signed by the maker and by at least two witnesses. Just a general letter stating one’s desires,
or a list of property with beneficiaries names is insufficient thus will not qualify as a Will.