The last will and testament is a major part of an estate plan and will ensure that the estate is settled according to your wishes. While there are other steps in estate planning, the will is the primary document to guide the process of settling an estate.
You may also use your will to express your sentiments toward your loved ones and your hopes for their future, forgive debts, provide special instructions about care of minor children, form posthumous trusts, and to provide for your pets.
Wills usually require specific language, some of which may be determined by your State’s rules.
You should regularly review and revise the will when preferences or circumstances change.
Update you will as soon as possible for any of these events.
- You get married or divorced or form a domestic partnership.
- The birth or adoption of a child, or death of a beneficiary.
- You are diagnosed with a terminal illness.
- You move to a different state where the laws may differ.
The laws for making a last will and testament vary from state to state, but there are some basic requirements.
You must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind; the age limit in certain states is lower if you’re legally married.
Depending on the state you live in, your will should be either typed or handwritten. Some states also allow oral or videotaped records.
A last will and testament is a legal document that is prepared while you are alive that describes how you want your assets to be handled after you’re gone.
- Its purpose is to give information and guidance to your executor or trustee and beneficiaries and may not be legally binding.
- It outlines what to do with your money, possessions, and other assets, such as being left to another person, a group, or donated to specified charities.
- This could include larger assets like your home or other properties, or possessions of lesser value, like a family heirloom or personal items.
- It may also designate how and who will manage your accounts and interests.
- If you have dependents, it will also state your wishes for them, including who will act as legal guardian for minor children, dependent adults, or pets.
- It needs to be signed and witnessed, although beneficiaries should not be witnesses. Some states may require notarization.
You should include all the information needed to clearly identify, locate, and access all of your assets, including:
- financial accounts, digital assets, tax information, insurance policies, credit cards, vehicle loans, and mortgages
- contact information for relatives and close friends to be notified of your death
- where assets and possessions are located (property addresses, safe deposit boxes, home safe, storage units, electronic devices or the internet, etc.)
- all your passwords, usernames, domain names, or other information needed to access digital information
- keys and combinations
- instructions regarding your desires for burial, cremation, funeral ceremonies, organ donation, etc.