What Is a Last Will and Testament?

We avoid conversations about death, often forgetting death is a part of our life cycle. It is a crucial part of life because it completes our life. Avoiding these conversations also distracts us from preparing for it, with the most important preparation being a last will and testament.

Most people do not know when, where or how they will die but we owe it to ourselves to prepare for the unknown by leaving behind a last will and testament.

What is a last will and testament?

A last will and testament is a lawful document that explains how a person wants their assets to be distributed after their death. The document provides necessary details of who will inherit what property. Also, if there are minors that were left behind by the diseased, the last will and testament can be used to name a guardian for them.

If the deceased failed to leave a last will and testament, the State will determine who inherits their property. Furthermore, every state has laws that guide the writing of a will and last testament and some of them go to the state of mind of the person drafting the will and require witnesses to acknowledge the signing of the document.

The testator (someone who writes and signs a will) need to be of sound mind and not under duress or any perceived influence.

What happens when a person dies without a last will and testament?

A situation where an individual dies without living behind a last will and testament is called “Intestate”, and in such a situation, there are State laws that guide how the properties of the deceased will be shared regardless of what the deceased wanted.

Under Intestacy laws, a court may delegate someone to manage your estate as they see fit and of course, the person may not be your chosen executor. To make matters worse, a distant relative could end up inheriting your estate instead of your lifelong partner.

A last will and testament ensures the living follow the lawful instructions of the deceased on how their estates will be managed and shared and also stop the intestacy laws from being activated.

Do you need a will and last testament?

Regardless of your financial status or age, no time is too late or too early to write a will and last testament. If your answer to the above question is “yes”, then you need to start thinking about how to execute a lawful will.

Last wills and testament are not only for the rich, even those in the lower class may have prized possessions that they would like to hand over to certain persons after they die.

Things you need to consider when writing a last will and testament

1. Beneficiaries

These are the people that will inherit your assets when you’re gone. You’ll list them and decide how you want your property divided among them.

2. An Executor

An executor is a person responsible for managing your estate according to your wishes. Their job description will be to collect the assets of your estate, pay any debt on the estate, pay federal and state taxes, and share the assets under the guidance of your last will and testament.

When choosing an executor, ensure you select one that you trust, one who can carry out your wishes with ease.

3. Alternate Executor

The alternate executor is to assume the responsibilities of the first choice executor if he is unable to perform his lawful duties.

4. List Your Children

Listing all your children does not mean that they will inherit any of your properties. You need to list all your children in your last will and testament because if you fail to do so, the child that was left out can get legal representation to contest the will in a court of law.

5. Witnesses

You need to have witnesses that will sign the will and acknowledge that you were of a sound mind when you wrote the will. The witnesses will not be privy to the contents of the will.

Also, witnesses are not allowed to benefit from the contents of a last will and testament as it gives room to the presumption that the deceased was under duress or influence of another.

Why you need a last will and testament

1. Ensure your wishes get carried out

If you have important assets you want to give certain individuals, a last will and testament is the only way to ensure those wishes are carried out after your death.

2. Avoid family infighting over property

In your last will and testament, you can decide what goes to whom. Who takes care of children left behind, your pets, and much more, and everyone has to respect your wishes.

3. Decide what happens to your body

If you don’t like the idea of being buried in the ground and would prefer to be cremated, the only way to let people know what you want is by adding it to your last will and testament.

4. Look after your life partner

If you were not married to your partner before your death, you can use a last will and testament to ensure they are taken care of in the future. Failure to do this will mean all your assets could be inherited by someone else, including the home you shared with your life partner for many years before your death.

5. Save everyone time and money

A last will and testament will save your family a lot of stress, time, and money. Wills are cheaper and easy to carry out than resolving disputes through probate.

Conclusion

Writing a last will and testament is important. It makes the grieving process less painful, as it guides the process, explains who gets what, and ensures there is no dispute.

You don’t know what day, week, month, or year you will leave this world. Draft your last will and testament before that time comes.

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