What You Need to Know About Wills and Estate Planning
If you are in your 40’s, are married, or have children, you should consider having a will created. In this article, we will look at the details of a will, what they cover, and why you should have one.
What is a Will?
A will is a document that outlines what you want to be done with your possessions and property after you pass. You can also lay out your wished for custody of dependants in a will. There are a few different types of wills, such as:
Testamentary Will– the most common, and most used. This is a traditional will that is formally prepared, usually by an estate lawyer, and signed by a witness.
Oral Will – This will is dictated to a witness and recorded. Occasionally these do not stand up in court, so try to also have a written will to back it up
Holographic Will – This is a self-written will that is not notarized or signed by a witness. These often do not hold up in court if contested.
What is a Living Will?
A living will has to do with your needs and wants if you are ever unable to make your own medical decisions due to various kinds of incapacitation. In this document you can set out what you prefer, and what procedures you approve of.
To properly cover your medical needs, you should also appoint someone to have Power of Attorney.
What is a Power of Attorney Document?
Power of attorney is a document stating that you give a specific person the legal rights to make decisions for you if you are unable to. You do not have to give power of attorney to an estate lawyer, though a lot of people choose this route to keep things from getting complicated with family members.
This person will make medical decisions that are not set out in your living will, with the understanding that you have discussed it with them before, or that they have the best understanding of what you would want in the situation. Given the amount of power they would have over your life, be sure to choose someone you trust to have your best interest in mind.
What Shouldn’t You Put in Your Will?
There are a few things that you are not legally able to bequeath in totality. This includes things such as joint-owned properties (though you could leave your half to someone), and any money that already has a legal beneficiary set up (like life insurance).
Funeral Arrangements & Wills
Funeral arrangements should not be included in your will. Most wills are not read before the funeral, and any wishes may not be known in time for the service.
You can create a separate document or an addendum to your living will, that covers this. Most estate lawyers recommend having a notarized and witnessed document laying out your wishes, and if possible, a separate account with the money for these wishes. If you can pre-pay for any funeral services you will want, to save your loved ones trouble and expenses during their time of mourning.
Everyone should have a will and a living will, both to ensure your lives work goes where you want it to, and to ensure that your loved ones aren’t left to make decisions they shouldn’t haveto..