What is a will?

So, what is a will? A will is a legal document which dictates certain instructions to be followed upon your death.  It is generally used to disburse your physical property as you desire, but other instructions may be given as well.  It is also common to name guardians for your minor children in a will.  The more complicated a person’s estate, the more complicated will be his legal will.  There are generally four basic requirements for a will to be considered legal.

  • It must be in writing (either handwritten or typed).
  • It must be signed by the person making the will (called the testator).
  • It must have two witnesses who witness the signing of the will by the testator and each other.
  • The person making the will must be at least 18 years of age.

Last will and testament

Any person who dies without a last will and testament will have their assets and property distributed by the states in which they own property.    However, a person who has written a last will and testament will have his property distributed in three basic ways upon his death.

  • If a person is named as a beneficiary to a specific asset (such as a life insurance policy), the asset will be dispersed to the person named as the beneficiary.
  • If a person is listed as a joint owner on the title of a particular asset, then he will receive that asset as the surviving owner.
  • When a particular asset does not have a named beneficiary or a surviving owner, that asset can be distributed by means of a last will and testament.

Writing a will

Any person can write their own will; however, it is generally recommended to work with an attorney in order to ensure that the will holds up in a court of law.  As you are considering your will and interacting with your attorney, here some thoughts regarding what you can put in your will.

  • You can list your beneficiaries.  This is the most common use of a will and is a way to determine who will receive specific gifts and assets.  It can be a specific sum of money or a specific item.  You can also specify how and when a gift or sum of money would be distributed to a minor beneficiary.  You may also need to consider how to distribute an item or sum of money if its beneficiary passes away before you do.  There may be other specifics that you need to deal with depending upon the details of your particular will.
  •  You can list a guardian or choice of guardians for any minor children.  This part of your will may include several sets of instructions.  You may list someone to be the actual guardian for your children, or you may list someone who will simply be designated as the decision maker for choosing a new guardian for your children.  You may designate someone to manage your assets on behalf of your children until they become an adult.  You can also leave instructions regarding how you would like a guardian to raise your children.
  • You can list an executor.  This person would be nominated to manage the different aspects of your will upon your death.  He would, with the court’s approval, distribute your assets as specified in your will.  This person should be someone that you trust without reservation.

Stop by The Law Offices of Justin M. Gilbert for a consultation about the formulation of your will.  Let us help you clarify your goals and purposes and establish a will that is effective.

Whether a will is the appropriate choice for you is based on a variety of factors. The first step to understanding if a will is the right choice for you is answering the question, “what is a will?” Now that you have read about what a will is, you can take the next step. We can help you identify your goals and wishes and match your priorities to the estate plan that is right for you. Contact us today for a no cost consultation.