A Will is the declaration of the testator (person making and signing the Will) to name an individual to manage his or her estate, as well as, details their wishes for distributing personal property upon their death. The estate could consist of real estate property, land, jewelry, vehicles, bank accounts, stocks, bonds, etc.
There are several different types of Wills; however, not all Wills are valid in each state. The estate planning attorneys at JUX are experienced in this area and are able to advise clients on the types of Will that will work best for you, as well as ensure the Will is valid in your jurisdiction.
The different types of Wills are as follows:
- Simple Wills– Most common type of Will used for straightforward estates. Simple Wills are typically used for estates that will not be subject to estate taxes. Although they are relatively easy to complete, we recommend you contact an attorney at JUX to assist in drafting the Will to ensure the Will is valid. Not all states recognize Simple Wills as a valid Will.
- Oral Wills– This is a spoken Will that typically has to be witnesses by three people to limit errors or misunderstandings. These Wills are used in emergency situations and/or by military personnel. There are many challenges to Oral Wills and they are rarely valid, and even if a state declares them as valid, they are often times contested because it can be easily argued that the testator is not of sound mind.
- Holographic Will– This is a Will that is handwritten, dated, and signed in full by the testator. Like an oral Will, this type of Will is not valid in most states, and would require it to be signed by a witness that will confirm the Will is indeed signed by the testator as well as attesting to the intent.
- Pour Over Will- This Will is like a normal Will, however, the beneficiary is the testators Living Trust, so the trust is responsible for all of the property. This type of Will is used when a Trust is part of the estate plan. These types of Wills often times are considered to be the most simple, because all of the assets are controlled by the Trust.
- Wills for spouses and civil partners– Also called Mutual Wills, Joint Wills, or Reciprocal Wills. These types of Wills are designed to ensure all property is disbursed identically. Although they are all similar, Wills for spouses and civil partners have differences. In a Reciprocal Will, the couple leaves assets to each other, but allows them to change the Will after the death of the other. A Joint Will does not allow the surviving person to change the Will. Mutual Wills are identical, but separate Wills for each person, they agree on different beneficiaries after each of their deaths (often times used for non-joint children).
In addition to the different kinds of Wills to consider, there are a number of standard requirements that are needed to make a Will valid. A list is provided below:
- The testator must be the age of majority and of sound mind (capable of making decisions)
- The testator must sign the Will
- The Will must be signed by two witnesses
- The Will must be in writing
- The testator must declare that he revokes all Wills and codicils
An estate planning attorney workes with clients with very different situations, amounts of property, and family dynamics. They are able to identify the best type of Will for each person or couple, as well as facilitate the process to ensure the Will is valid.