There's a lot to know about Wills. You need to understand the difference between a Will and Living Will, how Wills should be executed and how they can be modified or challenged. You also need to understand the probate process and how that can affect the outcome of your estate planning goals.
Who Should Have a Will?
Many people assume that only the wealthy need to have a Will. However, the truth is that many people, with and without great wealth, need to have a Will in case the unexpected occurs.
People who should have a Will include but are not limited to:
- Those who are married
- Those who have children
- Those who own assets
- Those who have a special needs family member
Only people who do not have assets, a spouse, and/or children may not need a Will.
When Should I Make a Will?
A Will needs to be created and often updated when certain events occur:
- When you turn 18
- When you marry, divorce, or remarry
- When you have children
- When you start a business
- When you buy a home
Whenever you have a major life change, it is time to make or update your existing Will.
What Goes into a Will?
A Will states who should inherit your assets when you die. If you have children, you can designate who you want to have custody of your children if you pass away. A Will also allows you to appoint an executor (known as a personal representative in some jurisdictions) for your estate. This person will be in charge of administering your estate according to the terms of your Will when you die.
What Should I Avoid in a Will?
There are certain things that are best dealt with through other means rather than a Will. Things that are not appropriate and should be avoided in a Will include:
- Retirement plan proceeds
- Life Insurance
- Living trust property
An estate planning attorney can advise you on the best way to handle these matters. Many of them can complement your Will and work well in an estate plan.
Can My Parents Leave Me Out of Their Will?
Whether or not your parents are able to leave you out of their Will depends on which state you live in. Most states allow this to occur, while in others a parent must leave at least a token amount, such as $1, for the Will to be considered valid.
Can Someone Challenge My Will after I Die?
There is always a possibility someone will challenge your Will after you pass away. Whether or not that challenge is successful is a different question. Some of the most common reasons Wills are challenged include:
- That the testator was under undue influence or lacked the capacity to make a Will
- That the Will is a fraud/forged
- That the Will lacks the formalities required to be valid, such as being signed and correctly witnessed
Having a lawyer help with the process of creating your Will can help prevent successful challenges.
Can I Make a Will without a Lawyer?
It is possible to create a Will without the assistance of a lawyer. However, states can be very specific regarding what is required for a Will to be considered valid. If you create the Will on your own, and it does not meet the legal requirements for validity, it may not be enforceable.