What is a Will and Why Do I Need One?

Of course, no one knows when he or she will die. However, we do have the privilege to determine our legacy, who will care for our minor or incapacitated children, and how our assets will ultimately be distributed upon our death. The best way to do this is by making sure that we properly prepare.

What is a Will?
A last will and testament, commonly known as a Will, is a document that helps protect your family as well as your assets. A Will dictates how your assets will be distributed upon your death. Wills are powerful and crucial legal documents.

The Importance of a Will
Having a Will in place is crucial because it gives your family members peace of mind while they are grieving and going through the healing process. A Will sets out your wishes as to who will inherit your property after you die. Not having a Will could result in family feuds and possible legal battles between loved ones you leave behind.

Failure to execute a Last Will and Testament results in the state determining the distribution of your assets via intestate succession laws. The downside of this intestate legal process is that the distribution outcome may possibly not be in line with your last wishes.

Additionally, a Will is very important for mothers and fathers of minor children. It allows them to name a guardian to care for their minor or incapacitated children. Having a Will also allows a parent to appoint a person to oversee and manage the property that is left to minor or incapacitated children.

Another great benefit of making a Will is that the document names an executor or personal representative. A personal representative is a person that is named to ensure that the provisions of one’s Will are carried out correctly

Who May Make a Will?
The legal requirement to execute a Last Will and Testament in Alabama is that the person must be at least 18 years old, of sound mind, and not under any undue influence. The person must also not be coerced or threatened into making a Will.

How Do I Make a Will?
It is highly recommended that anyone seeking to have a Will prepared first consult with a lawyer. For a Will to be considered legal in the eyes of the law, certain requirements must be fulfilled.

May I Dispose Of My Property in Any Way I Desire By Making a Will?
Although an individual generally has the privilege to dispose of the property of their estate as they wish, there are some specific state law restrictions when it comes to succession and inheritance. For instance, a married person cannot completely exclude the other spouse from sharing in his/her estate. A lawyer can best explain all of the limitations set out in the law.

How Do I Know If I Need to Write a Will?
Most everyone needs a Will. Your family circumstances and the size of your estate are primary determining factors. Guardianship provisions are key provisions in a Will. If your children are minors or you have an adult child who is dependent upon you, then you need a Will. Further, if you own assets that require distribution through your Estate, you need a Will. Simply having a small estate does not mean that you do not need a Will. Owning assets that can be divided and distributed to your loved ones identifies you as someone who needs a Will. This is particularly important if you want specific assets to pass to a particular individual or organization after your death.

When Do I Need To Write A Will?
A Will can be executed at any time a person wishes to do so. The best time to work with a lawyer to draft a Last Will and Testament is when one is in good health and free from emotional distress. The benefit of executing a Will when one is in good health and free from emotional distress is that it is much less likely to be invalidated through judicial action via Will contest once probated after death.

Is A Will Expensive?
Lawyers charge hourly rates or flat rates dependent upon the project and its complexity. What this means is that dependent upon the size of your estate and the composition of your family, it may take more time to draft a Will that accommodates all of your wishes. In simple terms, the amount of money you will spend for a lawyer’s services to assist you in drafting your Will depends entirely on the size and complexity of your estate.

May A Will Be Changed Once It Is Written?
The provisions of a Will may be changed at any time prior to the testator’s death. This may be done by drafting and executing a new Will or by drafting and executing a codicil (amendment) to your Last Will and Testament. For a codicil to be valid, it must follow the same formalities of the execution of an original Will.

How Long is My Will “Good”?
A Will is deemed good as long as it has not been revoked or changed. If your family makeup or estate changes after making your first Will, it is prudent to update your Will or execute a new one that is in line with your property and family members. For instance, if you are blessed with the birth of a new child, you should have your original Will updated by a lawyer.

What Should I Do With My Will Once It Is Executed?
Once you have executed your Will, it is crucial to let a close friend or a family member know about its whereabouts. Make sure that it is sealed and kept in a safe place where those you trust know where to find it.

If you’re in need of a lawyer to help you prepare and execute a Last Will and Testament, please contact Stanko & Senter for a consultation today!