This is because it is very easy to dispute the inheritance if there isn’t a proper will in existence. Having a last will and testament is important to ensure your loved ones will not have to face legal issues while they are coping with losing a loved one. It is important to write a last will and testament that is legally void and applicable. When it comes to legal documents it is always recommended to either use a professional or follow a template properly. Our last will and testament templates have been professionally written to ensure that they are legally enforceable.
The People Involved in a Last Will and Testament
The last will is a document that details the desire of the person who has passed away but it needs more people to be legally enforceable. The people who need to exist for the last will to be enforceable are:
- The Executor
- The Beneficiary
- The Witness
An executor is the person who is responsible for ensuring that your will is executed. This is a person who you trust; someone who has the authority to make your wishes come true in the best possible way. You can choose a family member to be the executor but you might run into problems if you do. If the executor does not appear to be working in the best interests of the beneficiaries the will can be contested and even annulled. Picking a family member leaves a chance for there to be family drama about favoritism. Many people choose their lawyers to be the executors.
The executor has a lot of power which is why it is necessary that it be someone who is capable of carrying out the task. For example, if you are leaving a house, then you might order the executor to have the house sold and the money generated be divided equally among all your children. To ensure that your children benefit as much as possible it is important that the executor knows how to get the best price for your house. Ensure that your executor will know how to deal with your assets.
The beneficiary is the person who you leave something to in your last will and testament. There can be multiple beneficiaries as well. There is no limit to who can be a beneficiary; it can be a person or you can donate your wealth to an organization. People who do not have any next of kin often end up leaving their wealth to a charity or to a project they really believe in. If there are multiple beneficiaries then you need to ensure that your outline the will properly. Make sure that all your assets have been accounted for and that you have mentioned what should be done with them. You may decide to divide what you leave behind equally among all the beneficiaries or you may divide your wealth as you see fit. It is important to be clear about the division to ensure that there are no problems between the beneficiaries and that no one claims to have been treated unfairly by the executor.
You can also assign alternate beneficiaries in case the main beneficiaries are no longer alive. The alternate beneficiaries will not get anything if the main beneficiaries are available to take the inheritance but in their absence the alternate beneficiaries will be treated like main beneficiaries. It is important to assign alternate beneficiaries because none of us know what might happen in the future. It is doubly important to have alternate beneficiaries if your beneficiary is the same age as you, for example your wife or husband.
The witnesses are the people who are there to attest that you were of sound mind and not under any stress when you signed the will. It is necessary for legal documents to be ironclad; if there is some doubt about the authenticity of a legal document it could result in a lot of trouble. Which is why you need there to be two people who can attest to the fact that no one forced you to write the will and that you were mentally sound while doing so. People who cannot be considered mentally sound cannot create any type of contracts according to the law.
Things to keep in mind when writing a will
What you need to do in a last will and testament:
- Identify Yourself
- Declare your will
- Declare any previous will to be void
- Specify that you are of sound mind and that you are not in any undue stress
- Mention your relationships
- Specify and authorize your executor
- Determine beneficiaries
- Determine what assets are yours to give away
- State and specify how your assets will be given away
- Define conditional gifts
- Define Guardians
- Write any special requests you may have
- Finalize your will
Identifications and Declarations
You need to identify yourself fully in the beginning of the will. Aside from your name you also need to include your social security number, or a similar other identification that is unique to you. This ensures that there is no contestation about who wrote the will. You also need to declare that you are of sound mind and that you are writing the will with free will instead of undue stress to do so.
It is also important that you declare the will to be your last and that you announce any previous wills to be void and null. People often change wills when the status of their property or of the beneficiaries changes. If you have made a will and testament before you need to ensure that you void them by declaring on your latest will. It is also very helpful to identify the relationships you have. Include information about who you are married to as well as your children.
Once you have identified yourself you need to specify your executor as well. You need to write down their name, their social security number (or a similar identification detail), and you then need to provide them the authority to act upon your will. You need to specify that you trust this person with your assets and that the person is authorized to sell your assets and divide them in accordance with what is written in your will. Think of it like a power-of-attorney, because the executor has a lot of power.
Determine the beneficiaries
You need to think about who the beneficiaries will be. For most people it is their spouse or children but there are no limitations on who you can make a beneficiary. Do note that it is recommended that you make the will with a lawyer if your beneficiaries are unusual. Some people are estranged from their families and do not leave them anything. You may also pick someone you have recently met to be a beneficiary. Wills can be contested in court thus if you have any unusual requests you have to take extra precautions and have more witnesses so they can testify that you made the will with a sound mind.
See what assets are yours to give
No matter what last will and testament form you choose, you cannot will something if it wasn’t yours to give in the first place. If you have shares in a company, you may only give away your shares. If you live in a state where “community property” laws exist, your spouse may have 50% ownership over the house, which means you cannot give it away.
Writing something in your will does not supersede other agreements that you have signed previously. Many companies make share owners sign contracts which specify that majority shareholders should allow the rest of the executive board to have the first offer for buying their shares in case of their death; if you have signed any agreement which clashes with your will then your will may become void.
Define how you want your assets to be divided
Be as specific as you can be when it comes to dividing your assets. The first thing you need to is list all the assets that you have and declare their value as well. Once you have determined all the assets that are legally yours to give away you need to tell how they should be divided between the beneficiaries. The purpose of a will is ensuring that your loved ones are looked after; make the work easier by letting the executor know exactly what you want done.
If you have multiple properties then you can give them to different people. When doing so it is important that you enter as much detail as possible about the property. This means you need to mention the property’s name, it’s address, and any other identifying information.
Conditional wills are rare but they are valid. A conditional will provides something to a beneficiary but only if they fulfill a condition. Some conditions are valid while others are invalid. For example, in most states, you can specify that a person will get money if they graduate from college. However conditions cannot be put on unreasonable requests such as getting married. Talk to a lawyer about what conditions are valid and which ones aren’t.
Special requests are where you put in any request you have that are not related to your assets. Usually special requests include what the person wants to be done with their remains. You may specify the exact way that you want your remains to be handles. You can choose what is to be done with your body (such as cremation, burial, being donated to science) and you can also choose what shall be done for your funeral. Some people choose to specify every detail about how they want their funeral to be, while others simply explain the wishes about what to be done with the body.
Finalize your will
Once you have completed your will, you need to finalize it. No matter what last will and testament template you use, you need to make it final and ensure it is legally binding in every aspect. You also need to sign the will in front of the witnesses and then the witnesses need to sign the will as well. Do remember that finalizing means that the will is final – you cannot make amends to the will without making the witness signatures void. If you change the will in any way, you will need to sign it again and so will the witnesses. Reread the will again and again to ensure that the conditions defined are ironclad.
Creating a will is a great step when it comes to planning for the future. Most people who have lawyers will have a will ready because lawyers know the importance of last will and testaments. You can use any of the templates we have for the last will and testaments depending on your needs. The requirements of wills change from country to country and sometimes even city to city. It is always a good idea to research your local laws before making a will to ensure that your will is legally enforceable. The foresight of creating a will makes things easier for our loved ones.
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