Questions for Will Preparation

By A.L. Kennedy

When preparing a will, it's important to ask questions that help you gather the information you need. From deciding whether you need a will to figuring out who should receive what, a few key questions can make writing your last will and testament easier. You can also consult an attorney for answers to your will preparation questions.

Why Do I Need a Will?

Your will explains where your property should go when you die. If you have a will, you can choose nearly any person or charity to receive your property. If you die without a will, however, your property will be given to the person designated under state law -- usually, your spouse, children or parents. If you have no living relatives and no will, your property may end up belonging to the state when you die, according to the American Bar Association.

Does My Will Have to Be in Writing?

In most states, your will has to be in writing. About a dozen states accept nuncupative, or oral, wills. However, even in these states, an oral will can only be used in dire circumstances. No state accepts video wills without a written version, and as of 2010 only Nebraska accepts wills in electronic formats like computer files, according to the American Bar Association. You may handwrite your will or type it in any state as long as it meets the state's requirements for validity.

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Who Is an Executor and Why Should I Choose One?

Your executor takes care of your property when you die. He also works with the probate court to make sure the people in your will get what you have left for them. In some states, the executor is also known as the "personal representative." You may name your own executor in your will. If you do not name an executor, or if the one you have named chooses not to serve or is unable to serve, the probate court will choose an executor from among the people listed in your will or from among your creditors, according to the American Bar Association.

Can I Leave My Property to Anyone?

You have the choice to leave your property to any person or charity you choose, with only a few restrictions. Most states will not let you write your current spouse out of your will entirely, unless you and your spouse have a prenuptial agreement where your spouse agrees not to take anything under your will, according to the American Bar Association. You may write your children out of your will, but you should specify that you are leaving them out. Otherwise, a probate court may assume you simply forgot them and give them part of your estate anyway, according to FindLaw.

How Do I Make My Will Valid With Witnesses?

Forty-eight states require your will to be signed by you and by at least two witnesses. Vermont requires three witnesses, and Louisiana requires a notary in addition to two witnesses, according to FindLaw. Both you and your witnesses must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind. Your witnesses should watch you sign the will and write the date, then each witness should sign and date the will. Consult an attorney in your state to learn what special rules may apply to how a witness signs.

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How to Make a Will by Yourself
 

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How to Write a Hand Written Will

When you write your last will and testament by hand, it’s called "holographic" in legal terms. Some states require witnesses for holographic wills; others do not. Some states don’t accept handwritten wills at all. Check with your state’s website or consult with an attorney to be sure of your area's guidelines.

FAQs on a Last Will & Testament

A will is a document that allows you to decide who gets your property when you pass away, who is going to make sure that your beneficiaries get your property and who is going to raise your minor children in your absence, if you have any. If you die without a will, you allow the state where you resided to determine who gets everything you’ve worked for.

How to Make a Legal Will in California

If you are a California resident who is 18 years or older, you can make a valid will without a great expenditure of time or money. Those with simple holdings can write a will themselves, dispensing with attorneys, notaries and even witnesses. The California Probate Code specifically approves a handwritten will -- termed a holographic will -- for state residents. While a holographic will is not for everybody -- more complicated estates might benefit from legal advice and tax-planning assistance -- a simple handwritten will remains a valid, viable option.

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