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Estate Planning & Probate

What’s the big deal? Why you need a will.

The purpose of a last will and testament.

Black’s Law Dictionary defines a ‘will’ as follows: n, 2. A document by which a person directs his or her estate to be distributed upon death <there was no mention of his estranged brother in the will>.  A will is, then, a tool that allows you to plan how your estate is to be divided once you are gone.

One of my old law professors used to say, “Rule number one when you die: other people get your stuff.  (For the most part) with a will you get to say who gets what.  Without one, the laws of intestate succession say who gets what.”  That seems to me to be a fairly easy way to look at it.  Whether you possess vast wealth or a small nest-egg, who do you want to decide how your hard-earned assets are to be divided amongst your loved ones?  You? Or state law?

The importance of a will.

While it is pretty well understood that everybody’s time here on Earth comes to an end sometime, very rare is the person that knows the how or when of their demise.  Model and actress Mia Amber Davis had routine knee surgery on 9 May 2011.  The next morning she collapsed and died.  Autopsy revealed the cause of death to be a blood clot, that had developed in her leg and traveled to her lung, causing fatal complications.  Everyday, celebrities and regular people die unexpectedly.

Estimates are that seven out of ten people die ‘intestate,’ without a will.  Most people intend to write a will.  Intending to write a will and writing one are two very different things, however.

Because you likely do not know when your time is up, it is important for you to write a will today, to give your loved ones the peace of mind of knowing that you have a plan to provide for them in the event of your unexpected death.

What makes a will valid.

Every state has its own laws establishing format, endorsement, and witness requirements for wills.  A will that fails any of these requirements is at risk of being declared invalid.  Some states have laws that automatically invalidate a portion of or an entire will if the ‘testator,’ the person making the will, marries or divorces.  An invalid will is the same as no will.  Though no law obligates you to seek the assistance of an attorney in drafting a will, an experienced estate-planning attorney can let you rest easy, now and after your death, knowing that your will is done correctly.

For informational purposes only and not to be relied upon as legal advice.

by Brook D. Wood

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