How Many Different Types of Wills Are There?

By A.L. Kennedy

A will is a document that explains how to distribute your property after your death. There are several different types of wills, although not all types are valid in all states. In most cases, a will must be in writing and signed by the testator, or person making the will, as well as at least two witnesses. Consult an attorney to find out what types of wills are valid in your state.

Simple Wills

A simple will is another name for a basic will that leaves instructions for distributing property in a straightforward manner, and does not deal with complicated investments, trusts or other situations. A simple will may be appropriate if you have no minor children and few assets which you expect to leave to only a few people.

Trust-Related Wills

Wills are sometimes used in conjunction with trusts for various reasons, including a desire to see your beneficiaries receive your property without prolonged visits to the probate court. Two types of wills that work with trusts are a testamentary trust will and a pour-over will. A testamentary trust will creates a trust upon your death, then moves some or all of your estate into the trust. Meanwhile, a pour-over will works with a trust you created before your death. The pour-over will ensures that anything you did not put in the trust's name before your death enters the trust when you die.

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Handwritten Wills

A holographic will, also known as an olographic will, is a will that is written mostly or entirely in your own handwriting. In some states, a holographic will is valid even if it was not witnessed, as long as the testator signed it, wrote the date, and wrote material portions, such as the name of the executor and who was to receive which property, in his own handwriting. An attorney who practices estate law in your state can tell you whether a holographic will is valid in your state and help you make one.

Oral Wills

An oral will is also known as a nuncupative will. Unlike most wills, an oral will is spoken to one or more witnesses before the testator's death, instead of written. Not all states recognize oral wills. The states that do recognize them usually require that the will be made on the testator's deathbed, that one of the witnesses write the will down after the testator's death, and that the will can distribute only a small amount of property. Since you may not have time or the ability in a life-threatening situation to make an oral will, it is best to use a written will format even if your state allows nuncupative wills.

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Types of Wills

Wills are not "one size fits all." Several different types of wills exist, and if you have decided that you want to have a will prepared, you need to be aware of the various wills available. The type of will you choose may depend on the state you live in -- not all states recognize all will types. With this information, you can then decide exactly which type of will best suits your needs.

What is a Will & Trust Kit?

A will and trust kit provides forms and instructions for a person who wants to make a will or create a living trust. Wills and living trusts are common estate planning tools used to plan for the distribution of property after one's death. A will is a written document with directions for estate distribution, while a living trust is an agreement used to manage assets while a person is still living and after their death. If you're considering a will and trust kit, you'll need to evaluate the different types available and their associated benefits and drawbacks.

How to Make My Own Will Free of Charge

Writing your own will is a process that does not need to cost money. If you have limited assets and straightforward child custody plans or no minor children, making your own will free of charge may be an option for you. If you have a complex financial portfolio or your children will require special care or financial arrangements, however, you may wish to speak to an experienced attorney in your state about the details of your will.

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