In this section, we’ll cover everything you need to know about obtaining a living will yourself.
Where can I get a will?
Depending on the state of your affairs, you may decide to DIY it or hire an estate planning attorney. If you can DIY it, check with your state’s laws regarding what forms you need to fill out. Services, like Legalzoom, provide a middle ground where you’ll pay a couple hundred dollars but they’ll take care of filing the right documents in your state.
However, if you have children under the age of 18, run a business, or have a lot of assets, it is in your best interest to consult with an estate planning attorney instead of trying to DIY your will.
Is a last will and testament legally binding?
Yes, a last will & testament is legally binding unless there is an instance of fraud or another reason to contest the will. For example, if you weren’t sound of mind when the will was written or your state requires a witness present and there wasn’t one.
How long is a last will and testament valid?
There is no expiration date on a last will & testament. If you correctly complete a legally-binding last will & testament, then it doesn’t matter if the will was signed 5 minutes or 50 years ago. It’s still valid.
Is a handwritten last will and testament legal?
Most states will not permit handwritten wills. This is to help reduce instances of fraud or confusion. You’ll need to make sure to follow your state’s guidelines to ensure your will is legally binding. If you have any questions, be sure to consult with an estate planning legal professional. They can walk you through the process and ensure your last will & testament is set up correctly.
Can a Will help to avoid probate?
Probate can be a costly, time-consuming process as assets are gathered and debts are paid. While a last will & testament can make probate easier by indicating which person will inherit what, you’ll need to consult with an estate planning attorney if you want to avoid probate entirely.
Note: Probate refers to the state’s court-supervised process of settling an estate and distributing assets or property to the heirs. Many people assume that having a will means that your estate can skip probate, but this isn’t true. Your will still has to go through probate to ensure property is divided correctly, but a will can reduce unwanted delays and higher court costs.
Joint ownership of property, beneficiary designations, and pay-on-death or transfer-on-death accounts are all methods of designating assets without probate. Revocable living trusts and simply giving away or donating property are other options. You’ll want to discuss all of your options with an estate planning attorney to figure out what’s best for your unique situation.
Are Wills public record?
Last will & testaments become part of the public record once they’ve been filed in probate court. However, simply writing a will doesn’t mean it becomes public. You don’t have to register it in a database or repository. Your will can be fairly private until you pass.
Typically, the executor of the will or the estate’s personal representative will be in charge of who can view the will. Once the person has passed, their heirs and beneficiaries are entitled to a copy of the will from the executor.