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Wills: How important is it to write a will?

Wills provide a legal record of written directives regarding how estate assets should be distributed upon death. While it's not a task people enjoy doing, writing a Will is an important element that shouldn't be avoided.

Wills are vital documents for individuals wanting to take care of their family after death. This written contract makes the job of estate settlement much easier for estate executors.
Every estate that passes through probate needs an estate executor to take care of final matters. The Will is used to name the person who will assume this role.

Wills also provide instructions about who receives specific estate assets by designating beneficiaries. Anyone who has minor children will need to clearly express how estate assets should be utilized to look after the children until they reach legal age. Additionally, the persons chosen to become legal guardians need to be declared in the last Will

Although there are different types of Wills they all contain similar elements. These include: estate executor, legal guardianship, beneficiaries, charitable gifts, and burial preferences.

While it can be helpful to include instruction regarding funeral and burial, it is vital to let others know your wishes ahead of time. The Will isn't always read right away and should not be relied upon as the only source for relaying directives.

There are quite a few ways to write a Will. It can be handwritten, typed, or printed. The writer needs to sign the document in front of witnesses who are not related. Witnesses need to be willing to vouch for the writer and the validity of the Will in probate court if problems arise.

Specific verbiage is required within Wills, so it is best to seek professional advice to assure the document will be valid. Other options include using services such as LegalZoom or purchasing do it yourself Will kits.

Some people choose to include 'no-contest' clause to minimize risk of family disputes over inheritance. Basically, this clause forces anyone that contests the Will to forfeit their rights to any property that was gifted them.

Other people elect to include a disinheritance clause. This is a drastic measure that most people don't have to worry about, but if it applies it is best to obtain legal counsel. Each state governs the process and it can vary by county or municipality.

Last, but not least, Wills should include instructions on how to pay off outstanding debts. Estate executors establish an estate bank account to pay debts, taxes, and any expenses related to settlement.

They need to know how much money is available and how to access funds to reconcile the estate. Accounting records need to be filed through the court before inheritance property can be given to heirs.

Wills need to be updated when major events occur. These might include acquiring or disposing of valuable assets; marriage, divorce, or death of a spouse; birth of a child; or additional family member added through adoption or marriage.

There is no better time than now to write a Will. Our estate planning library is packed with helpful articles and useful resources to make the process simpler. It also provides tips for ways to avoid probate and how to setup trusts.

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Published on September 13, 2011 at 02:22 AM

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