Types of Wills

By A.K. Jayne

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.

Simple Will

The simple will is the standard document that dictates your wishes regarding distribution of your assets and guardianship for your children after your death. You have the option of drawing up a will yourself by utilizing a legal document preparation service or having one drafted by an attorney. When you prepare a simple will, you appoint an executor -- that is, a trusted person who will ensure that your wishes are carried out as stated in the will.

Video Will

In a video will, you read the information contained in the will aloud on camera and the video is played after your death. Financial Web notes that video wills are recognized in most states. Video wills are used to prove that the deceased did indeed wish for her assets to be distributed per the instructions in the will. However, a video will is not intended to be used in lieu of a written will, cautions the American Bar Association. Video wills are best used as supplements to a written will and the will can be signed on camera.

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Living Will

A living will is a kind of advance directive that dictates how you want to be cared for medically in the event you become incapacitated. For example, a living will might specify whether you wish to be kept alive by artificial means such as a respirator or feeding tube. A living will is typically prepared in conjunction with a document known as a medical power of attorney. In a medical power of attorney, you designate the individual -- known as a health care agent of proxy -- who will carry out your wishes if you are unable to.

Testamentary Trust Will

A testamentary trust will establishes one or more trusts in order to distribute your assets. When preparing this will, you can state that you wish for funds from your estate to go into a trust and those funds will be distributed in the manner designated in the will. If you have minor children, you may wish to state that you want specific funds from the testamentary trust to be divided equally among your children once they reach a certain age.

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Can I Fill Out My Own Living Will and Have it Be Legal?

Your living will is a legal document that explains the kind of medical care you do and do not want to have if you become incapacitated. It provides guidance to your family and your physicians when you are unable to tell them yourself what you want. Most states follow the Uniform Health Care Decisions Act, which allows you to fill out your own living will and have it be legal.

Standard Will Vs. Living Will

Planning your estate may involve creating several documents to address your end-of-life care before you die and your property after you die. Two of these documents may be a will and living will. A will directs the distribution of your assets after you die and a living will directs your health care while you are alive.

Healthcare Proxies Vs. Living Wills

It is important to communicate with your doctor when medical care must be administered. Being able to convey your wishes and make decisions is the key to controlling what form of treatment and care you receive. An advance directive, such as a living will, makes it possible for you to put your wishes in writing ahead of time, so they can be followed if you are too sick or injured to consult with your doctor. A health care proxy, another form of advance directive, allows you to appoint someone to make health care decisions for you.

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