Updated on September 22nd, 2023
A last will and testament or will is a legal document made by an individual (testator) that outlines how possessions transfer after their death. A personal representative must be mentioned to ensure the testator’s wishes are carried out.
A will must be signed by two witnesses to be legally binding in 49 States (Louisiana requires two witnesses and a notary public).
Who can be a Witness?
- An adult;
- Not related to the testator (by blood or marriage); and
- Not be included in the will as a beneficiary.
By Type (2)
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
If the testator has children, a testamentary trust can be included in their will. This trust allows money to be distributed to beneficiaries when they reach a certain age.
In addition, a guardian can be mentioned in a will as the preferred caretaker for the testator’s minor children. Although, the guardian named in a will is under no legal obligation to care for the children.
- Beneficiary – A person who will receive property, cash, or other assets as mentioned in a will.
- Decedent – Often referred to as a testator after death.
- Estate – Entirety of property and debts that a person leaves after death.
- Guardian – A person appointed by a testator to care for their minor children.
- Holographic Will – A handwritten will.
- Intestate – Dying without a will.
- Personal Representative (Executor) – An individual appointed by the testator to carry out their wishes and requests in a well.
- Predeceased – When someone dies before someone else and commonly referred to as when a beneficiary dies before the testator.
- Probate – The court process that approves a will and allows the property to be disbursed.
- Residuary Estate – The part of a deceased’s estate after debts are paid, and special bequests have been made.
- Special Bequest – When the testator requests specific property to be given to certain individuals.
- Testator – The person creating a will.
- Testamentary Trust – Allows a minor child to be a beneficiary by delaying the inheritance date until they reach a certain age.
- Trustee – An individual appointed to manage a trust, commonly on behalf of a child.
Frequently Asked Questions (11)
Why do I need a Will?
A will is an important estate planning document that allows individuals to choose where their possessions will go after death.
If a will is not made, the estate will be considered “intestate,” and the estate will be distributed in accordance with the State laws to the decedent’s heirs-at-will.
Who can make a Will?
A will can be made by a competent person of sound mind and over the age of 18 years old.
When is a Will used?
A will, and the testator’s death certificate, are used when starting the probate process 30 to 60 days after death.
After filing in the probate court, notice will be made to all relatives, heirs, and beneficiaries to allow any other evidence of inheritance to be filed. If no other evidence is presented, the probate process should take 3 to 6 months to distribute the testator’s property.
Who should I choose as my Personal Representative (Executor)?
What if a Beneficiary dies first?
Can I change my Will after it’s been made?
Do I need an attorney to create a Will?
What is the difference between a Will and a Trust?
What is Probate?
Can a Will be Contested?
Is a holographic (handwritten) Will legal?
A holographic will is legal in the ___ States of: