Why should I make a Will?
It will help you avoid court battles if your wishes are not known. If someone is fighting over who gets what of yours, they may also get to keep it all. As a parent, making a Will1 can ensure that the right people are raising and caring for your children after you die; this includes guardianship and where they live — which may be essential factors in their happiness. If any property or money is left to one person but not another (or some family members), these people may feel resentful. Still, a Will can specify the beneficiaries of your estate and what they are to receive. It is also essential for you to know that medically fragile children should have guardianship and a trust set up. A Will can be changed or revoked at any time, even while you are still alive. It is never too late to make one.
What happens if I do not have a Will?
If you do not have a Will, the state government will determine who and what receives your property. If there is no surviving spouse/civil partner or children and all of the beneficiaries are siblings, then each one would receive an equal share of the estate. If you have no surviving spouse/civil partner or children but have a child under 18 years old and more than one sibling, your share would be divided equally among all siblings while your child gets yours plus half of what their other siblings receive.
In some cases, it may not make sense to leave all property to one person. Perhaps two people should inherit everything jointly because they provide the same care for an elderly parent living in Pennsylvania. In these instances, a joint tenancy with the right of survivorship arrangement might work well so that if either dies without making another will or revoking this agreement beforehand, the deceased person’s interest goes to the surviving joint tenant.
You can enjoy your property during life as you see fit, but by doing so, this may limit what happens after death. If you want a specific relative or friend to inherit some of your property without any limits on how it will be used or if you would like for that person and his/her spouse/civil partner to have an inheritance even if they do not live with the testator-then consider using a trust arrangement in which one party holds overall title assets and manages them according to instructions left behind. This could also protect from creditors should someone die owing money.
The Intestacy Rules
Rules of Intestacy2: The person’s property is equally divided between his or her children. Should only one child exist, then that child receives everything outright-half to be taken at the time of death, with half going to other natural heirs later if they have not yet come into being (born). If no children exist, the estate goes entirely to grandchildren and their descendants in equal shares; should there be none either, it passes down through parents’ lines on both sides for as many times until an heir can be found.
Should some distant relative appear from somewhere, he/she may inherit little more than sentimental value unless something else had been specified by the deceased.
How can these rules affect me?
If you have children, it’s essential to write a will that states how their inheritance should be distributed.
Without the help of a lawyer or professional executor, this may prove difficult and lead to family disputes among heirs who are ignorant about what has been left by the deceased.
It is also necessary to think about any future descendants that might come into being after your death. Not everyone wants them to inherit an estate worth millions of dollars because it renders them unable to make ends meet themselves when they turn 18!
For those without children but with close relatives, such as siblings or cousins, updating wills can ensure these people inherit properties instead of distant relatives from other lines if there are no more direct ascendants living today (parents’ generation).
Why should a solicitor draft my will?
A general rule of thumb is that if you want your will drafted by someone other than an attorney, they must be qualified. This qualification varies by area and jurisdiction but usually involves being in the field for five or more years with a relevant degree from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association (the ABA). Other qualifications might include passing an exam or obtaining certification from one of the many different organizations which certify wills drafters, such as those offered through The National Institute of Wills Drafting Professionals (NIWDP)
What is involved in making a Will?
It is widespread for a person to make their will in conjunction with having an estate plan, which generally includes one or more of the following legal documents:
- A Durable Power of Attorney and Living Will.
- Powers of Appointment (a type of trust) that names beneficiaries will receive property when the grantor dies.
- Final Arrangements Directive (also called “Outline”), including instructions regarding the funeral, burial, etc.
The final arrangements directive also typically has information about where to send flowers or type of gift if it’s not known what arrangements you would have wanted. This legal document often contains contact info for your family members as well so they can be notified.
What special considerations apply to business owners?
A typical estate plan will include an asset protection strategy, such as a trust or LLC. Other standard business-related provisions of the document may include:
- Liens (charges) to secure debts related to company equipment and property
- Authorization for the professional executor of your estate to conduct transactions on behalf of you or your family members concerning companies in which you have ownership interests
- Dividing up assets between heirs
- Authorization for the executor of your estate to sell companies and other properties that you own at fair market value.
The person who will be responsible for carrying out your personal affairs after death is called the executor, and in some cases, an alternate person may be named.
What if I want to exclude someone from my will?
If you want to avoid giving a specific person an inheritance, it is essential that this person not be named in your will. However, any property or assets they receive through means other than the terms of your choice may still qualify for distribution under intestacy law (law concerning what happens to one’s property when there are no valid wills). To altogether remove anyone who falls outside of the parameters outlined in your estate plan can also result in severe consequences such as being convicted for violating public policy. For these reasons and others, we recommend seeking legal advice before excluding someone from your will.
What happens if a claim is successful?
If a claim is successful, you may be required to provide assets in your estate that the person was challenging your Will contests. This includes property and other valuable possessions at risk of being awarded by the court if they are successful in their claim.
To minimize the probability of an unsuccessful inheritance challenge, it is essential that you:
Clarify any vague provisions.
Identify when and how beneficiaries will receive assets.
Make clear what they are entitled to.
This will help reduce ambiguity and provide peace of mind if your will is challenged after you pass away.
Can I leave my estate to whoever I want?
Yes. You may leave your estate to whoever you want, as long as it is not a beneficiary in your will and they are living at the time of death (unless otherwise stated).
Can I change my beneficiaries?
Yes. Your will can be changed anytime before or after passing away – make sure that all changes have been documented with an amendment or supplement and filed with the Registry Office, where probate proceedings were initiated when you create your new document.
What should you never put in your will?
Do not include your name in the will. This may make it easier for an heir to challenge the will. Instead, write or print “My Last Will and Testament” at the top of a separate sheet of paper, sign and date it in black ink with no other words on that page (or use any typeface or font). Do not list specific provisions within the document if they are complex. Instead, you should attach a schedule giving details about what is being left and how much is going to each beneficiary.
What happens if someone is challenging my will?
If the person challenging your will is successful, they may be entitled to:
- All or a portion of what you own.
- Your residence and anything in it at the time of death.
- The right to make decisions about any trusts that are part of your estate plan. This includes direct where the money or assets are invested and who will receive the benefits of any trust.
- The right to take an equal share in all property that you own jointly with someone else (such as a spouse or civil partnership).
- Your share of property from joint accounts unless their name is on the bank account.
You now have the information you need to decide what type of will is best for you, but if there are still many uncertainties, we encourage you to contact a lawyer. Hope this article has been helpful and informative in answering some of your questions about wills.