Wills and Estate Planning – FAQs

The Will is a written document that describes the distribution of your “Estate”  and also names somebody to take charge of everything – the Executor – after you have died.

The Executor has the responsibility to gather your assets, secure them, and then distribute them according to the instructions in your Will.

  • Can be any person who is at least 19 years of age
  • Should be trustworthy and capable of given responsibility

 A Probate is a process in which a deceased person’s property is passed to the beneficiaries named in their will.

A will is a legal document that allows your wishes in regards to the distribution of assets to be carried out after your passing. Without a will, these wishes may not be carried through and your heirs may have to spend additional time and money to get the affairs settled. Additionally, this commonly can cause family strife and may result in a lengthy probate process. 

With a will, you are able to allocate where your assets go and where they do not. You have the ability to plan for estate taxes and gifts or charitable donations. Importantly, you can identify who will care for your minor children, without a will, this decision is made by the courts. Creating a will works in the best interest of you and your family. 

A will can help protect yourself as well as your family from additional financial and emotional stress.

There are five types of wills that can be accepted. The most effective being a testamentary will. This is a written document with the presence of witnesses and allows for the maximization of your wishes to be carried out. A holographic will is signed by the testator (person who has made the will) but no witnesses are present. These wills are used when there is a short time period and an immediate document needs to be produced. The third is an oral will which consists of the testator orally communicating their wishes to witnesses. As a result of the lack of written documentation, this is not widely recognized by most courts. A pour-over will consist of creating a trust that will be distributed at the time of death. Lastly, mutual wills are usually exercised with married or committed partners. After one of the partners dies, the remaining assets will be transferred to the other partner.

If there is no will in place before you die, your property and assets at that time will be distributed by law which may be according to your interests. In short, you will lose control over who gets how much of your estate.

Some of the duties of an executor including

  • Arranging a  funeral and paying expenses for it
  • Pay the will-maker debts and any taxes
  • Distribute special gifts of property and other residues of the estate
  • Assembling and selling assets

Before consulting, you should first make a rough list of all your assets and debts. This includes mortgages, family heirlooms, safety deposit boxes, and any other assets that you would like to pass to a particular person. After, begin making a list of who you would like to transfer which particular assets to. This is to be added as a letter of instruction to your will.

It is encouraged to consult a lawyer for further action. This will ensure that the will has been properly drafted and all requirements are able to be met. If requirements are not met, this can result in additional legal fees after the death. 

Additionally, you will need to name an executor of the estate who is responsible for following and distributing assets allocated in the will. You can also name joint executors such as a relative and your attorney.

Yes! It is good to have multiple wills when you own property in a different jurisdiction to cover the laws in that jurisdiction.