While drafting a last will and testament can be an emotional endeavor, the duress this document can save a family is often well worth it in the end. A will is a legal declaration by which a person names another person or persons to manage an estate and/or the transfer of property in the event of her death. While each state can vary with regards to the specificities required to make a will legally binding, most demand at least these certain parts.
Title of the Document
The first part of the will document should be its title. Generally, the title will simply be "Last Will and Testament of (insert your name here)."
Beneath the title should be a statement in which the testator (the person drafting the will) states his full name and residential address. Immediately following those statements should be a declaration that the testator is of legal age to make a will and of sound mind and memory to do so. The testator must also declare that this document serves as her last will and testament, revoking all previously made wills and codicils. Lastly, the declaration should include a statement that the testator is not under duress or undue influence to make the will. In drafting this part of the will, be certain to include any personal details possible. Be as complete as possible, addressing any former names, identification numbers and other personally identifying information.
Name of the Executor
The executor is the person who the testator appoints to carry out terms of the will. Typically a person names the remaining spouse or main beneficiary of the estate as executor. These are the people who generally have the best knowledge in terms of how the testator wants the estate divvied. More and more people are choosing to also name an alternative executor, who will be in charge of the estate should anything happen to the primary executor.
Name of Guardian for Minor Children
For those who have children who are of the age that they require a guardian, this is a crucial part of the will. This section should include the name of the person who will be appointed legal guardian of the testator's children, should both the testator and his spouse pass. For those naming a couple as legal guardian of the minor children, be sure to include both of their names.
Details of Beneficiaries
For this part of the will, it is important to be as specific as possible. Name each beneficiary, whether it be a child, spouse or long-lost friend, as specifically as possible. There should be absolutely no doubt as to the identity of a beneficiary. It is also a good idea to name alternative beneficiaries in the event of simultaneous death.
Details About the Assets
This part of the will should distinguish between those assets that are already assigned to beneficiaries in the event of the testator's death and those that are not. For example, assets that are not part of the will may include policies where the testator has already specified a beneficiary, joint ownership or joint tenancy of property, payable-on-death bank accounts and trusts.
This is probably the most important part of the will. This section should include specificities about how the testator wishes for her estate to be divvied up among the specific organizations and people acting as beneficiaries.
Many people include a section of their will dedicated to funeral arrangements to ensure that their remains are handled as they wish upon their death. The funeral arrangement section of the will should include whether the testator wishes to be buried, cremated, or have her remains disposed of in some other manner.
Lastly, the will should include the signature of the testator, as well as the signatures of at least two witnesses.The signature of the testator must be made in the presence of the witnesses, testifying that this is indeed his last will and testament. The actual date and place the document was signed must also be recorded. It is recommended that the testator sign or at least initial every page of the will. The document must also be signed by a minimum of two witnesses. The witnesses should include their full names and addresses, as well as a declaration that they saw the testator sign the document, that they are legal adults and of sound mind and that they consider the testator of sound mind, adult age and under no duress or undue influence to sign the will.
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