When most people hear the word “will,” they usually envision a last will and testament. What they might not realize until they speak with an estate planning attorney is that there are many different types of wills. In fact, plenty of estate planning clients are surprised by how numerous their will options are.
Last Will and Testament (Simple Will)
A last will and testament is a legal document that is written to declare who your personal items will go to when you die, how additional property such as real estate and bank accounts will be dispersed, and the name of the personal representative who is charged with closing up your affairs. In the event that the last will and testament writer, the testator or testatrix, has children or step-children, the document will name the person assigned to raise the child or children.
For a last will and testament to be legal, the testator must be of sound mind at the time of creating and signing the will. He or she will sign and date the document after approving the way it lays out their wishes. While some simple wills are available as “fill in the blank” documents online, I encourage you to contact an estate planning lawyer before using a generic will form. Otherwise, you may miss major details or not understand the rules set up according to your state’s laws.
Unlike in the movies, most last will and testament document readings do not take place in a boardroom at a law firm filled with family members. More often, disbursement of assets and other matters are settled privately and without much fanfare. There are exceptions, of course, especially if someone contests the validity of the last will and testament. Although this does not happen all the time, it does occur. Therefore, having an estate attorney from the very beginning makes sense.
Pour-Over Last Will and Testament
What happens to an individual’s revocable living trust after the testator dies? That’s where a pourover last will and testament comes into play. Sometimes, all of the testator’s assets are unconnected to their revocable living trust prior to his or her death. A pourover last will and testament makes sure all of the assets are properly assigned so everything is handled smoothly.
Thanks to lessened social stigma regarding end-of-life decisions, many people have at least heard of a living will, even if they do not have one themselves. Another term for a living will is an advance medical directive. Nursing homes usually require an advance medical directive because it helps them understand how to react in an emergency situation. For example, a living will lays out exactly the type of medical treatment that should and should not be performed in the case of a life or death situation. Some people would rather not be revived if they suffer a massive heart attack. Others want no life sustaining measures taken if they slip into a coma.
Having a living will is not only wise for you as the individual but they also relieve the burden of decision-making from your spouse, children, and other family members. Rather than having to determine if they should continue life support, they can simply follow the directives you laid out in your living will. Living wills are especially critical for those who are terminally ill.
An ethical will is a completely different type of will. It does not require the help of an estate lawyer because it is not legally based. It is a letter that is written specifically for loved ones. Ethical wills are an emotional way to make a final connection with people. Often, individuals write them when they know their death is imminent. Because ethical wills are rarely discussed in everyday conversation, people often do not write them. However, these types of wills are a beautiful gift to hand down to your spouse, children, other family members, and good friends.
When a Trust Is a Better Choice Than a Simple Will
Many times, estate planning lawyer clients will set up an appointment to create a last will and testament only to discover that their assets and property are more complex than they originally assumed. Under those circumstances, a trust can be an excellent solution. Trusts name specific property and assets, as well as talk about how those items in the estate will be distributed. The trust administrator is in charge of following the trust to the letter and therefore, distributes property as necessary.
Trusts make a lot of sense for individuals who have multiple assets, or who want to make sure that a beneficiary does not receive all of the assets at once. Having a testamentary trust takes away the worry that an irresponsible spouse, child, or young adult might burn through the funds you left them too quickly.
Contact an Estate Planning Attorney in Arizona
If you do not have a will, or your simple will has not been updated since major life changes have occurred, contact me today. I’m happy to answer all of your questions and walk you through the estate planning process with ease.