How Many Different Types of Legal Wills Exist?

By A.L. Kennedy

A will leaves instructions for handling someone's estate when she dies. However, the way these instructions are left can vary, meaning that many different types of wills exist.Some types of wills can be used by anyone, others are restricted to very specific situations and are not valid outside these situations while some are recognized in certain states but not others. According to the American Bar Association, there are approximately five different types of legal wills.

Simple Wills

The American Bar Association describes a simple will as a document that meets the minimum legal requirements for a will, including signature and witnesses, but that contains only a few, straightforward instructions. A simple will is used to bequeath a few assets to one or just a few individuals. One of the most famous simple wills was that of Maryland's first Governor Leonard Calvert, whose will instructed his executor to "take all and pay all."

Wills With Trusts

A testamentary trust will and a pour-over will are both used when the assets of an estate are to be transferred to a trust when you die, according to the American Bar Association. The only difference between the two deals with when the trust is created. A pour-over trust will transfers property into a trust you created before your death. A testamentary trust will both creates the trust and transfers all your property into it at the same moment after your death.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Holographic WIlls

A holographic or olographic will is a will written entirely in the testator's own handwriting. The American Bar Association cautions that not all states recognize holographic wills. Most states that do recognize a holographic will require that the testator's name, signature and "material portions" of the will be in the testator's handwriting. One benefit of a holographic will, in the states that accept it, is that the will is not required to be witnessed.

Nuncupative Wills

Most wills must be written down in order to be valid. A nuncupative, or oral will, is valid only in a handful of U.S. states, and then only under specific circumstances. In the states that recognize oral wills, the will is only valid if the testator makes it in extreme circumstances such as immediately before death. Most of the states accepting them allow nuncupative wills to distribute only a small amount of property. A nuncupative will must be written down by the witnesses to it within a short time after the testator's death, according to the USLegal Dictionary.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
Can a Power of Attorney Sign a Will?
 

References

Resources

Related articles

Can More Than Two Wills Be Probated?

Very few people intentionally leave two wills. If two separate wills are offered for probate, the court generally tries to recreate through proof the circumstances that led to two wills existing; then it decides which will to accept as valid. Several factors can impact this decision.

Florida Last Wills Vs. Trusts

Planning for your eventual demise can help you protect your assets and ensure their smooth transfer of your heirs. However, estate planning can be a complicated process. There are two primary vehicles for estate planning: last wills and testaments, or simply wills, and revocable trusts, or simply trusts. Each legal instrument is governed by Florida state law for Florida residents.

How to Write a Canadian Hand Written Will

A handwritten will, called a holographic will, is legal in some of the provinces of Canada. There is no set form for a holographic will, and it does not have to use any specific words or phrases. A holographic will can be used to save money on legal fees or in times of emergency. For example, Cecil Harris, a Saskatchewan farmer, died after being pinned under his tractor. Before he died, he carved his will on the fender of the tractor. His will, which was upheld by a court as a valid holographic will, read, “In case I die in this mess, I leave all to the wife. Cecil Harris.”

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help.

Related articles

Rules About Wills

Your will explains to those you leave behind how you want them to deal with your property when you die. It also allows ...

How Many Different Types of Wills Are There?

A will is a document that explains how to distribute your property after your death. There are several different types ...

Maryland's Inheritance Law

When a person dies, his estate, comprised of all property acquired during his lifetime, will be distributed to his ...

How to Prove a Will When Your Subscribing Witnesses Are All Dead or Unavailable

Wills can be an effective estate planning tool for distributing property after your death. But, for its terms to be ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED