A Basic Last Will & Testament

By Jill Lewis

A last will and testament is a legal document that describes how you want to allocate your assets, property and belongings after your death. While the laws regarding last wills and testaments vary from state to state, reading up and following the laws of your state will ensure the validity of the documents. In general though, there are some basic requirements that govern the drafting of all last wills and testaments.

A last will and testament is a legal document that describes how you want to allocate your assets, property and belongings after your death. While the laws regarding last wills and testaments vary from state to state, reading up and following the laws of your state will ensure the validity of the documents. In general though, there are some basic requirements that govern the drafting of all last wills and testaments.

Eligibility

According to the Uniform Probate Code, which has been adopted by most states either in full or in part, any individual can make a last will and testament if he is over the age of 18 and of "sound mind." "Sound mind" means that the person making the will, called the "testator," must be able to understand the full meaning and effect of the document at the time of the signing.

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Basic Requirements

In general, last wills and testaments must be written. Most people use typed or printed templates for their wills, but some states allow for handwritten or "holographic" wills if the document is signed by the testator and the material portions of the document are in the testator's handwriting.

Provisions

Basic provisions of a last will and testament should include the naming of an executor who will be responsible for executing the will, an alternate executor in case the first choice is unable or unwilling to carry out his duties, the wishes of the testator in regard to burial or cremation, specific bequests to heirs, and information regarding payment to creditors and any charitable donations. If necessary, a last will and testament could also include the naming of a guardian for any surviving children of the testator.

Signatures and Witnesses

Last wills and testaments must be signed by the testator and witnessed by at least two individuals; the requirements vary by state. Depending on the state and the form of the will, the document may also need to be notarized. Neither the notary nor any beneficiaries to the will should serve as witnesses to the will to avoid any implication of undue pressure or influence on the testator. Besides signing the will, which is required in every state, it is also a good practice for the testator to initial and date the bottom of every page of the document.

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What Is the Legal Document Called a Will?

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How do I Create a Basic Will in Maine?

If you are a resident of Maine, unless you create a will, your assets will be distributed after your death according to the laws of intestacy contained in Part 1 of Title 18-A, Article 2 of the Maine Revised Statutes. A basic will in Maine can be made by anyone over 18 years of age. It must be in writing, and must be signed by the person making the will and at least two credible witnesses.

Power of Attorney Letter Format

A power of attorney, sometimes also known as a letter of attorney, is a document that allows someone else to act on your behalf and hold either general or specific authority to make financial, legal and health care decisions. The laws of the individual states govern the creation and use of powers of attorney. The format of the document itself may vary, with a letter form serving as one common and relatively simple alternative. A power of attorney letter may be addressed to a specific group or individual, to the agent or as a general declaration.

A Guide to Wills

A last will and testament is usually a formal legal document setting out the drafter's directions for how his property should be distributed after death. A last will may also sometimes be a handwritten or even an oral statement. A living will is another type of legal document which describes the drafter's preferences for medical treatment decisions in the event he is unable to communicate his wishes.

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