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Wills 101


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A Will is a legal document which controls what happens to your property, and property in which you have an interest, after your death.

Regardless of your health, wealth, or marital status, it is important to have a challenge-resistant, legally valid, up-to-date Will. If you don't have a Will or it is invalid, your assets will pass according to what the state decides your wishes are. (This is known as dying "intestate.") 

It is possible to write a Will yourself, without the help of a lawyer. However, if you do, it is advisable to at least have a lawyer review it and oversee the execution to be sure it is done in accordance with the law of the state in which you reside and to help make it challenge proof. You won't be here to fix any mistakes.

After writing a Will, it is advisable to:

  • Make a photocopy without unstapling the Will. (If you unstaple it, there will be a question later about what pages are part of the original and which ones are not.)
  • Store the original in a safe place that is readily accessible. 
  • Check the content of your AWill periodically to be sure it is up-to-date. 
  • Consider telling your heirs what is in your Will. Experience indicates that telling your heirs about your intentions can eliminate problems afterward and help assure that your wishes will be carried out.  

If you already have a Will, review it to see whether it needs to be updated.

Following are links to information about the following frequently asked-about subjects:

For information about when people can expect to receive their inheritance, click here. 

NOTE: In addition to a Will, it is advisable to:

  • Write a list of "who-gets-'what", and to update it at least once a year.  A list of "who-gets-what" covers the items that don't have a lot of monetary value but may be immense sentimental or historical value. Without such a list, items you think of as valuable may end up in the trash or at the local thrift store, or even end up with the wrong person.
  • Write a List of Instructions which gives people practical information in case you become incapacitated or die. For example, the List tells people where your property is located, and how to maintain it.
  • Wite an Heir Game Plan. It provides people a practical guidelines of what to do in the event of your death.
  • Make sure your pets are taken care of if you don't specifically include them in your Will.
  • If no one will be living in your home immediately after you die, ask a trusted person to look after the property while it is vacant. Empty houses invite vandalism. Damage from a storm or leak which isn't taken care of can be devastating. Don't rely solely on Homeowners Insurance.
  • Consider writing an Ethical Will to pass on your values
  • Be sure that someone knows where you store your passwords for your computer, mobile devices, online accounts etc. You can store your passwords online through such services as Legacy Locker offsite linkPlanned Departure offsite link and SecureSafe offsite link

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