A will is a testamentary document created by a decedent that directs the testators assets to be distributed to beneficiaries upon the death of the testator. When you are planning for end of life situations you should meet with an estate planning lawyer to develop a will. Estate planning lawyers should be able to help you dispose of your assets, upon death, in the way that you intend.
The alternative to a will, and the default in the United States, is intestacy. Intestasy means that your assets, at death, will be distributed to your heirs through your states laws of descent and distribuiton. The forms of descent and distribution in the United States consist of per capita, per stirpes and per capita at each generation.
When creating a will, estate planning lawyers will assess your family and friends that will be receiving bequests through your will. Under a will the testator will direct his, or her, assets, including cash, personal property, real property and accounts to be distributed to certain individuals. The second step in creating a will is to assess all of the testators assets. When creating your will, estate planning lawyers will want you to investigate all your assets that will be considered to be solely in your name. Assets that are held in joint bank accounts, tenancies by the entirety, tenancies in common and any other accounts that you may hold with other individuals.
Every state has different rules when it comes the requirements for a valid will. One of the most important rules that apply to wills is that there must be witnesses to the signing of the will and that those witnesses must sign their names declaring that they are aware of the will and understand, and acknowledge, the provisions of the will. In most states, an individual who is a witness to a will may not receive under the provisions of the will. In these situations, the witnesses bequest will be void. This can be overcome if there is more than the required amount of witnesses who sign as witnesses to the will.
A will is normally written and drafted by an estate planning lawyer. When it is not it is known as a holographic will. A holographic will is a handwritten will that is created by the testator and has no witnesses. One of the problems with a holographic will is that it must be proven that it is the last will and testament of the testator.
Each state has different laws that apply to the destruction and resurrecting of wills. Estate planning lawyers can inform you of these laws. One of the most frequent ways that wills are found to be invalid is when people create a new will, or codicil, and destroy the original will. Each state has specific rules that outline the specific legal steps that need to be taken in order for the new will to be probated. In many cases an individual will destroy his, or her, with the expectation that a new will will be probated only to have his, or her, beneficiaries find out that the second will was not properly created and that the estate will fall into intestacy due to the invalidity of the second will and the destruction of the first will.