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The US last will and testament form is a legal document outlining how you wish an executor to distribute your assets and property to your beneficiaries after your death. The beneficiaries are the people you want to inherit your assets after you die, while the role of the executor is to:
- Locate the deceased’s original and most recent will;
- Identify and gather the estate’s assets;
- File an inventory of the estate’s assets in court according to state rules;
- Ascertain the asset’s value;
- Undertake a title search of any the deceased’s real property and determine whether there are any encumbrances connected to any property;
- Protect the assets pending distribution to beneficiaries;
- Reach out to the beneficiaries and notify them of the intention to probate the will or not;
- Notify banks, credit unions, trust companies, or any other financial institution where the deceased held accounts;
- Determine whether the deceased had any insurance policies and submit a claim if the proceeds are payable to the estate;
- Ascertain whether there are any public or private pensions payable to the estate and pursue the relevant claims procedure;
- Inform the appropriate government agencies of the deceased’s death;
- Represent the estate in court;
- Pay cash legacies outlined in the will and oversee the transfer of personal effects to the appropriate individuals;
- Pay any debts and liabilities the estate owes;
- File appropriate tax returns for the deceased; and
- Distribute the assets.
If beneficiaries are younger than 18, the will appoints a guardian responsible for their upbringing until they become adults. The guardian can make decisions, such as the school the child will attend, and manage the child’s finances.
A last will and testament contract is essential because it ensures that a probate court divides your estate and bequeaths assets to those you wish to inherit them. In the case of minors, a will enables you to designate trusted guardians over them. It will save your family from the stress and possible disagreements that may arise trying to figure out how to divide your estate.
Consider the following steps of how to write a last will and testament:
- Add personal information. Mention your full name, address, marital status, and the number of children and their dates of birth;
- Add executor information. Name the individual or company you wish to be the executor and representative of your estate. Provide an alternative executor who should step in if circumstances bar the first-named executor from fulfilling their role;
- List your assets that you own;
- Provide the legal names and addresses of at least two guardians. The first name given is your first option for guardian and the second name is the second option should the first person be unwilling or unable;
- Outline your bequests and requests. Ensure you assign specific assets to appropriate individuals.
- Sign the will and allow for two witnesses to also sign the document. The document’s signing should be in your presence and on the same day you sign it.
If you have a modest estate, you can use Lawrina’s last will and testament example and submit it to sort out asset distribution. However, if your estate is midsize or high worth, you may consider involving a legal counsel to review your will and advise on any legal implications.
Review your last will and testament sample at least every three years or each time there is a significant adjustment in your life, such as a marriage, divorce, death of a beneficiary, or minors reaching the legal age of majority.
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A will is invalid if it is handwritten and appropriate witnesses haven’t signed it. A handwritten will is also called a holographic will, and the testator signs without witnesses. Most states consider holographic wills invalid. It is best to have an attorney draft the will for you. Further, not signing a will in the presence of witnesses who can ascertain that you are of sound mind will invalidate a will. The witnesses to a will should not be among the beneficiaries.
Your domicile state, which is the state of your legal residence, is the state law that will govern how you or your attorney writes your will, finds appropriate witnesses, and implements it.
Yes. You can write your own last will, provided you are of legal age and sound mind. However, it is best to have an attorney review your will to ensure your document is valid, leaves nothing out, and follows state law. For sure, you can ask your lawyer more questions, other than “what is a last will and testament?