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Wills 101

Wills 101

Estate Planning LawyerA will outlines the distribution of your assets following your death, similarly to a trust. If you have a trust, a will is only necessary in the case of any children who are still underage. Guardianship of these minor children must be addressed in a will. In some cases, it can be beneficial to have a basic will to simply state that remaining assets will be placed in a trust after you die. 

What constitutes a valid will? Can one write it on a napkin? The short answer is yes, although depending on the state and personal circumstances, this may vary. A “napkin will” must be totally written, dated, and signed in your handwriting; but even still, the contents may not be distributed in accordance with your intentions. For this reason, it is best to enlist the help of a qualified attorney. In every instance, a valid will must be physically available, so it is commonly typed and then printed for signing. It must be signed by the testator (you), and two adult witnesses. Some states have more specific requirements, including that a witness cannot be a spouse or someone who will inherit from the will. 

Testacy refers to the estate of a deceased person with a valid will. Intestacy, the opposite, is the estate without a last will and testament. Dying testate or intestate can have major impacts on how a person’s assets are distributed. If a person dies intestate, the assets are then distributed according to the laws of his or her residential state. If a person dies testate, his or her assets are distributed according to the last will and testament, as the lawyers at MDS Law can explain. The executor, who is in charge of a will, carries out duties that are both stated and implied in the will. These duties include collecting property, paying any debts, and distributing property based on the will. It is essential to name a trustworthy and capable executor. 

Avoiding probate (the legal process when a person dies to distribute his or her assets) with a will is possible, but prior actions need to be taken. You must arrange for all owned property to be distributed without court intervention. This may involve joint ownership of shared property, or even giving property away during your lifetime. Naming financial accounts with a beneficiary after your death can also reduce complications in the estate administration process. Take into account that a will alone typically does not avoid probate, but these methods can provide solutions in many situations. Seek the counsel of a legal professional for further information and guidance. 

 

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