Writing your Last Will and Testament is a very important step to protect your family and loved ones. It allows you to make key appointments, and also describe the distribution of your assets. But it is only step part of a complete estate plan.
At USLegalWills.com we offer a complete estate planning service – you are able to create all of the documents that you need in one place. In this article we will describe all of the documents that make up a complete estate plan. We will explain the role of each document, and let you know how and where you can create each document.
There is a difference between writing a Will, and creating your complete estate plan. Here are the documents that you need.
A Last Will and Testament
What is it?
A Last Will and Testament serves two important functions. It allows you to make key appointments, and then allows you to describe the distribution of your “assets” (everything that you own).
We recently commissioned a survey to determine how many Americans didn’t have a Will. But we added a question that most surveys don’t ask; “Do you have a Will, but you consider it to be out-of-date?”. People often feel that it’s difficult to get their Will written. But updating a Will can be just as onerous and expensive.
For Americans over the age of 65, over 15% had a Will in place, that they regarded as out-of-date.
Traditionally, writing a Will has been an expensive and inconvenient process. You would need to make an appointment with a lawyer. If you lived with a spouse or partner, you would need to co-ordinate this appointment with their schedule. You may even need to arrange childcare. Writing a Will with a lawyer is rarely done in one visit. You may need to discuss certain decisions with loved ones. You would certainly have to return to sign the documents after they have been prepared.
As a result, people have traditionally thought of Will writing as a once-in-a-lifetime activity. They would wait until that perfect time in their life to write their Will. A point in their life when nothing would likely change.
The problem is, that time never came, and as a result 65% of American adults don’t have an up-to-date Will in place.
You don’t need a lawyer to write a Will.
A lawyer, or estate planning attorney is trained in the law. If you have doubts about a particular situation, and you need a legal opinion on this situation, then you should speak to a lawyer.
Most people when they write a Will do not need to consult with a legal professional.
For example, if you wanted to write a Will that leaves everything to your spouse. But if you were both involved in a common accident, your estate would be divided between your children. This is a very standard Last Will and Testament. There is no legal nuance with this Will, and you would not need legal advice to prepare it.
Even if you had to set up a trust for a minor child, and name a guardian for your children, it is still a simple Last Will and Testament. There would be no need to pay $500 or more for this type of Will.
What is a Last Will and Testament?
A Last Will and Testament is a document that is written while you are mentally capable, that expresses your wishes for after you have died. It deals with the distribution of your possessions (your “estate”) and makes key appointments like your Executor (the person who will carry out the instructions) and Guardians for children (if applicable).
A Last Will and Testament, or simply, a “Will”, has to be written. It can be handwritten or typed, and must be signed and dated at the end. If it is typed, the signing must be witnessed by two competent adults who have nothing to gain from the contents of the Will.
Some jurisdictions accept an entirely handwritten document as a Will even if it is not witnessed. This is a “holographic” Will. The law allows this in order to allow people in desperate situations to still prepare their Will even if they cannot find witnesses. It is generally not recommended as a Will writing approach for people under normal circumstances.
This question leads to a number of further questions:
- What exactly is a Will?
- Why are some Wills free?
- Why do some Wills cost $1,000?
- How much should a Will cost?
- What about online Will services?
- Why do Wills at USLegalWills.com cost $39.95?
We will address all of these questions and more in this article.
What exactly is a Last Will and Testament?
A Will is a piece of paper that firstly states that the document is indeed your Will. It usually makes key appointments, for example an Executor who has the responsibility to carry out the instructions in your Will. It then goes on to describe the distribution of your “estate” (everything that you own).
Your estate is made up of bank accounts, real estate, investments, possessions and even family heirlooms. These are your “assets”. There are strategies for moving assets out of your estate, and there may be some good reasons for doing this. I’ll explain that later in the article.