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A Last Will & Testament Defined

Jun 23

A final will and testament is a document used in estate planning that details and specifies, among other things, what you want to happen to your possessions after you pass away. Your will details who will get your property in all pertinent and necessary ways.

Find out what happens to your possessions if you pass away without a will.

It may not be able to manage all of your assets, so you might want to think about other estate-planning alternatives. 70 percent of individuals surveyed, according to a 2020 study by, agree that having an estate plan is essential, but the proportion of those who have done so has declined by 12 percent from the survey from the previous year. It could be helpful to know what will happen to your estate if you don't make a will.

Making A Will & Testament

A legal document known as a last will and testament specifies how and when your possessions will be allocated to your beneficiaries. Your personal representative, usually referred to as your executor, has to be included in the will. This individual will be in charge of wrapping up your affairs and managing the estate's probate process.

The probate process is required to transfer many of your property to a live individual. Unless you have a backup strategy in place, like a living trust, if you don't have a will, you won't be able to avoid it.


What Purpose Does A Will Serve?

A will may be used to handle a number of issues. Name the main beneficiaries in it. For instance, the will should specify that you wish your brother Joe to inherit your classic car. But it should go a step further and state who gets the car if Joe passes away before you.

Your will should include the authority you want your executor to have while settling your estate. In the event that the other parent passes away before you do or due to an unforeseen circumstance, it should also name a guardian to take care of your children until they are adults. It could also appoint a conservator to look after any assets or money you leave to them since minors aren't authorized to hold property.

A will, however, may only handle assets that are subject to probate. Those are your things that must travel through the probate process in order to be handed on to a living individual. Many retirement programs, life insurance payments, and real estate held by joint tenants with right of survivorship all specifically designate beneficiaries. These non-probate assets will legally pass to the individuals who aren't included in your will.


What Are Wills & Estate Planning, & How Do They Work?

Another estate-planning option is a revocable living trust, which has the same basic provisions as a will but uses a successor trustee to handle your last affairs rather than an executor or personal representative.

You must change the ownership of your assets into the trust's name after you create the trust and before you pass away so that the trustee may manage them according to the conditions of the trust. Any property you own that hasn't yet been paid into your trust must be "captured" in a will in order for it to be put into your trust after your death. Such a will is referred to as a "pour-over will."


Requirements For Making Wills

Will requirements are governed by state law, so whether you're writing a simple pour-over will or a complex one, you must abide by those laws. If it doesn't adhere to the requirements for a valid will, the probate court won't accept it. It would be the same of not leaving a will at all.

These rules often specify how many witnesses you must have present while signing your will as well as how to do it. Because of simple errors in these areas, many "invalid" wills are declared void.

You must also be of legal age in your state—minors are not permitted to make a final will and testament. You must have a sound mental attitude. You won't be permitted to claim your spouse's inheritance, either.

You cannot use a last will and testament to compel a beneficiary to carry out any action, even if you believe it is in their best interests, such as completing college. You may not leave your adult children anything if you don't live and die in Louisiana.


Is A Will Required?

The state you are residing in at the time of your death, as well as any other state where you own real estate at the time of your death, will in effect create a will for you if you don't create a will before you pass away or if your will is declared invalid by a court. State intestacy laws determine who gets your probate property.

If this happens, your spouse could only be able to inherit half of your wealth from you. According to laws governing intestacy, your possessions are only given to your spouse and living descendants. Your parents and siblings would not get anything from you if you die without a will and are left with a spouse and children.