Every adult should have a Will. State law requires certain formalities to make a valid and enforceable Will. Handwritten Wills are valid in most states. Formally prepared Wills usually require two witnesses and a notary public. A Will should revoke any previous will, name a personal representative to collect your assets and pay your bills as you direct, name a guardian for any child who is under 18 or who is disabled or incapacitated and dispose of all of your property either through outright gifts, a gift in a Trust created by your Will, or a gift to an already established Trust. In your Will, you can specify where you want your personal property to go. You can change this list at any time without writing a new Will.
Consider a Trust Instead of a Will
A Trust can specify who will manage your financial affairs if you die, or become disabled or incapacitated. Without a Trust these decisions are made through the courts, a process that takes time, is costly, and can impose undue restrictions on your family. With only a Will your estate must go through probate court. Probate freezes your assets and can take months or even years to complete. And a Will provides no protection if you are incapacitated. Without a Trust a court appointee oversees your care. The court approves all expenses and oversees your financial affairs. This process can be costly to your beneficiaries and could lead to contention and frustration. Further, if you own assets and have no will or trust and you die or become incapacitated, the court may take control of your assets. When you set up a Trust, you transfer ownership of your titled assets from your individual name to the trustee of your Trust. There is nothing for the courts to control when you die or become incapacitated. This keeps you and your family out of the courts. Also, the process of settling a Trust is much quicker, less expensive, and more private than settling a will and may also help you reduce or eliminate estate taxes.