Today, let’s put the spotlight on WILLS!
I know what you’re thinking. Hasn’t she talked about this COUNTLESS times before?!
Ha, ha! Well, you’re not absolutely wrong, but you’re not absolutely right either… because there are loads of other things to chew over on the concept of wills, which, I’m mighty sure, you’re going to find useful and relevant to you, one way or another.
Without more ado, let’s get right to it!
First things first: What is a will?
Or to be more precise… What do we commonly know about what a will is?
Allow me to quote myself–
When we speak of “wills,” the first thing to pop into your mind is that important document explaining how someone wants to distribute her money and properties to her family and loved ones after she dies. If you’ve seen The Grand Budapest Hotel or Knives Out, then you probably would have remembered these, too—movies (both entertaining and star-studded, if I may say!) that involve this particular kind of will.
This is everyone’s idea of what a will is, and quite understandably so! Because besides the fact that, again, it’s how it’s usually talked about in movies, novels, and whatnot, it is also the most popular estate planning tool people generally execute.
It’s what we also call a last will and testament or a simple will, which is essentially a legal document that communicates a person’s final wishes as to the money, properties, and loved ones left behind.
It is a will, no doubt about that, but it is but a kind.
So, wait… There are (other) different kinds of wills?!
That’s absolutely right! Actually, if you could remember, we have previously talked about another kind: the living will. (Don’t recall? Refresh your memory here!) It’s a legal document that has NOTHING to do with properties (shocking!!) but deals, in fact, with end-of-life care.
Let’s go over a few more!
Joint will: Right, we have touched upon this one, too! It’s technically an offshoot of the simple will. A joint will basically is just that, except that it is signed by two persons, usually spouses or partners–hence the name!
Mirror will: In connection with the first item, mirror wills are two distinct and separate documents that contain the same and exact terms. Mirror wills and joint wills are often associated with each other–or compared with, to be more exact–and I’m personally biased toward mirror wills as against the other. (Find out why here!)
Pour-over will: I feel this is something that needs to be discussed thoroughly in a separate post (I promise to do this soon!), but for starters, a pour-over will is a document that lets your assets be transferred into a trust after death. This being the case, a pour-over will is often used with a living trust in place.
Holographic will: I won’t expound on this one as it isn’t recognized in Missouri, but just so you’re familiar if you aren’t yet, a holographic will is a purely handwritten will, often a consequence of extreme circumstances such as war, public emergency, or such other life-threatening situation.
Who are a will's VIPs?
These Very Important Persons are ones you have already met (through our past blogs!) and become familiar with, but just to give you a brief rundown, here are a will’s VIPs–your key players:
Testator, or the person who has properly executed a will
Decedent, or a person who has passed away (and who is usually also the testator in testamentary succession cases)
Beneficiary, or the person who is to receive part of the testator’s estate (or its entirety, in case the testator so desires!) as specified in the latter’s will and other estate planning documents
Executor, or the person named in a will chosen to administer the estate of the testator
To emphasize a previous point, not all wills deal with a person’s properties. (*ahem* living wills *ahem*) That said, the list above applies only to wills that work to distribute a person's estate, such as a simple will or a pour-over will.
Anything else I should know?
Well, we do have the basics already covered, but I would like to end with a few more salient points on the matter. Let’s call them the 3Ps:
Probate: A will does not become immediately effective upon the death of the testator. Nope, distribution of assets as specified in the will is never automatic! It has to undergo probate, which is the formal legal process where the will is “proved” in court, before it becomes valid and effective. Here’s our in-depth discussion on probate!
Public: With reference to probate, it must be emphasized that this process is public. ENTIRELY PUBLIC. Information on your properties, chosen beneficiaries, and even outstanding debts will be made public, and, not unexpectedly, some people are not comfortable with this reality. Thus, before making a will, it’s important to consider this fact and your heirs, given that it is them who will have to go through this public (and likely wearing) process.
Professional help: Drafting a will is something very personal. It involves your well earned properties and dearly loved beneficiaries, after all. Still, you may want to consider working with a lawyer, as there are legalities to take into consideration to avoid disallowance of your will. You certainly wouldn’t want that!
With pleasure, I’d give you professional assistance that you need. This is why I’m here, and I would love to help!