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Estate Planning: Wills

What is a will?

A will is a written document that leaves a person’s estate to the individuals or organizations named as beneficiaries in the will.  Wills serve as the most common means of transferring property after death, yet roughly seventy percent of Americans do not have legally binding wills.

The benefits of creating a will are substantial.  Not only can a will help reduce costs and streamline the transfer of property, but people can also structure their wills to convey tender feelings for their friends and family.

What happens if I die without a will?

If you die without a will, the state’s default system through the probate process will dictate how your property is distributed. The court would first look to close relatives: a surviving spouse or children. Where immediate family is not present, the court turns more distant relatives: parents, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, etc. If the court finds no relatives, it might award your property to the state.

While the court intends to distribute property as most people would ordinarily desire, the probate process is not perfect. It can be protracted, stressful and expensive. An experienced lawyer can help you draft a will that ensures your wishes are fulfilled and your loved ones are spared unnecessary burdens.

After drafting my will, can I later change it?

Your will should always reflect your current situation, both personal and financial. Reasons for altering your will include:

  • Marriage or divorce,
  • Birth or death of an immediate family member,
  • Purchase or sale of significant asset,
  • Modification in who you wish to inherent your property,
  • Change in state of residence.

You may change your will in two ways. First, you may attach a “Condicil,” which acts like an amendment adding or removing a provision of the original will. Sometimes, such revisions cause confusion or conflicting clauses. Never attempt to modify your will on your own. Scribbling in margins or crossing out sections invites ambiguity and makes your will vulnerable to attack.

With today’s technology, it is generally easier to revoke your outdated will and execute a new will.


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