What is a will? Why is a will important? Before these two questions are answered, ask yourself, “Do I own property or assets?” If you’re like most Americans, then the answer is yes and you should sit down and put together a will at some point. That way you, rather than your state government, decides who gets what when you die. In most cases, wills are written legal documents, but some states do recognize other types of wills. The legal requirements of each state do vary, so it’s essential that your will is drafted and executed properly.
A Will Must Meet All Legal Requirements
Most wills are formal documents that instruct how money and property should be distributed to each person named as an heir. For a will to be valid, you usually need to have one or two people witness you signing the will and then sign it themselves. In some states, however, wills that are handwritten or simply spoken can be legally enforceable as well. Video wills are increasingly popular, but given that this is a relatively new development, your state’s law may not recognize a video as a legal will.
Your Will Does More Than Name Heirs
The main reason for having a will is to allocate your property to heirs in any way you like. Additionally, other things can be included in a will such as funeral arrangements, legal guardians for minor children, and who should serve as the executor of your will or serve as a trustee of any trusts you create.
A Will Prevents Intestate Succession
When you die without a will, state laws known as “intestate succession laws” will decide which family members will inherit your estate and what proportion of the estate they will inherit. In most states, your spouse and children take priority under intestate succession. Whether you want other people to inherit some of your property, or if you want to leave everything to your spouse and children, but in different proportions than your state’s laws provide for, a will is one of the best ways to ensure that the state doesn’t make the decision for you.
A Will May Eliminate Family Conflict
The division of an estate after death comes with many emotions. The slightest differences can result in hurt feelings and recriminations. As divorce becomes more complex and blended families become more common, division of assets has also become more complicated. A typical situation is when you’re in a second marriage and have children from your first marriage. In this case, allocating your property purposefully between your second spouse and your children can give you peace of mind and prevent your family from fighting over your possessions.
The creation of a will can be a complicated, time-consuming process, but it is one that can make the lives of your loved ones much easier when you pass on. Additionally, creating a will puts the power in your hands to determine what happens to your property and assets when you die. For more information on wills and estate planning or if you’d like to start working on your will, contact the Phoenix estate planning attorneys here at Kamper, Estrada & Simmons, LLP are here to help. Contact us today!