Last Will and Testament

A last will and testament is a legal document that lets you, the testator (the person making the will), designate individuals or charities to receive your property and possessions when you pass away. These individuals and charities are commonly referred to as beneficiaries in your last will. A last will also allows you to name a guardian to care for minor children. The main purpose of a will is to ensure that the testator's wishes, and not the default laws of the state, will be followed upon the testator's death.
 
Dying without making a will means you'll have no say over who receives your property. The laws of the land may decide. Sometimes only 1/2 of one's assets go to the surviving spouse. Depending on your situation, the rest would go to your children, parents or close relatives. If you have minor children, a judge will decide who cares for them, and the situation may not be ideal.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What makes a will legally binding?
Last Wills will be not admitted by a court unless the following criteria are met:
  • You must be of sound mind.
  • You must be acting of your own free will without undue influence or duress from others.
  • The will must be signed and witnessed according to the applicable laws of the land.
Can I disinherit someone?
You can leave anyone out of your last will, subject to certain limitations. Many laws have been enacted to protect spouses and minor children.
 
If you wish to disinherit one of your children or to give one child less than another, you should clearly state that intention in your last will.
Can I change or revoke my will after I make it?

You can revoke a last will any time before death by making a new last will that states that all prior last wills are no longer valid.

To revoke a last will without making a new one, all you have to do is intentionally tear it up, deface it, burn it, or destroy it. If this is done accidentally, the last will is not revoked. What happens if you make a new last will (which revokes all prior last wills) and then decide that you like your old last will better? You need to make an entirely new last will that replaces the new one and mimics the old one. The old last will is invalid and cannot be revived after it has been revoked.

One way to make changes to a last will, without revoking it entirely, is to make a codicil, which is an amendment to a last will. However, a codicil must be signed and witnessed just like a last will, so it may be easier to make an entirely new last will. Be sure not to make changes to your last will after it has been witnessed and signed. If you cross out a person's name or add clauses to a last will that has already been signed, you risk making the whole last will invalid.

What should I do with my last will after I sign it?
After you sign your last will, you should keep it in a safe, easily accessible place. Be sure that the person whom you have appointed as your executor knows exactly where you stored your last will. You do not have to file it with the court or place it in the public record. However, some courts may permit you to deposit your last will with them, depending on how busy or crowded they are.

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