Estate Planning: The Different Types of Wills Explained

Monday, January 10, 2022

2 out of 3 adults don't have a will, and at least 7.6% said the reason was that they didn't know how to get one. They may have questions such as what is a will, how do I write one, and what should it include?

You're not alone if you're confused about what these documents require, but it's never too early to learn. The sooner you get your estate plan in order, the more likely you are to see your final wishes carried out as expected.

Read our guide to learn about the different types of wills you have to choose from.

Types of Wills

A will is only one of the many estate planning documents you may need. It involves a testator (the individual who's setting out their final wishes) and beneficiaries who receive their remaining assets. The primary purpose is to ensure that everything valuable goes to the right place.

A few of the many types of wills you have to choose from include living, last will and testament, simple, testamentary trusts, joint, nuncupative, and holographic.

A living will outlines your medical wishes if you become incapacitated.

A last will and testament is a legal document that describes your wishes for your assets, dependents, and survivors.

A simple will focuses on who receives your assets and earns guardianship of minor children.

A testamentary trust puts your assets into a trust with a trustee to manage it. They decide how beneficiaries get your assets and make sure to meet any conditions you've set in place.

A joint will is signed by 2 or more individuals but serves as a separate document for each testator. It's usually signed by spouses but can't be changed after it's created.

You can also choose nuncupative or holographic wills.

A holographic will is hand-written by the testator with no witnesses. Only 30 states recognize this format.

A nuncupative will is given orally and must show that the testator knows they are dying and will only include personal property. They must also have at least 3 witnesses and the will must go through probate within 6 months. Only 20 states recognize this format.

It's possible to have more than 1 of these types of wills written at the same time, and this may be necessary for complex estate planning situations.

How to Write a Will

The most important thing to know about your will is whether the format you've chosen is acceptable in your state.

It's also important to know what can be included in the type of format you've chosen. For example, a simple will can include real, intangible, and unproductive property or cash. It can't include life insurance, retirement accounts, joint property, or digital property. It also can't list your burial plans or funeral wishes.

Consult an estate planning attorney when writing a will to ensure your wishes are carried out and that you meet all legal requirements for the type you've chosen.

How to Get a Will

There are several types of wills to choose from because everyone has unique plans for what to do after their death. They may only be one part of the estate planning process, but they're one of the most important in ensuring your wishes are carried out.

Choose a format for your will that matches your desires and make sure to look into whether it's legal in your state. Then, find a reputable estate planning attorney to help you create it.

Monstrata & Grater, LLC can help you fashion any legal document you need. Contact us today for more estate planning advice.

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