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  • Writer's pictureThe Gracey Law Firm

10 Must Know Facts About Wills and Estate Planning

Creating a will can be a long, complicated, and emotional process. Let us help walk you through it. Stay in the know with these 10 wills and estate facts!

10. An animal cannot inherit from your will.

Initially, this may sound strange, but there are many cases of will creators attempting to leave property to their pets. Legally speaking, this is not a possibility. However, what you can do is leave part of your estate to a someone who is willing and able to care for your pet.

9. Almost anyone can make a will (yes, really).

There are only a few requirements to make a legal will. For the will creator him/herself, they must be an adult (18 or over) and of sound mind (must be under no duress or force, must be of good mental capacity). That's about it for personal requirements! Other than that, the will must be signed by at least two witnesses and the person who owns the will must date and sign it. Check with your state law to make sure the will fulfills other legal requirements that make it valid.

8. In most cases, the witnesses of a will signing cannot inherit anything under the will.

This basic fact of wills exists to protect the will creator from being coerced by witnesses to give them more of their assets, thus protecting against a conflict of interest.

7. A will isn't just for determining how your property is distributed, you can also use it to appoint guardians (in the case that you have young children).

In the unfortunate case that both of a child's legal guardians (or parents) pass away, a personal guardian must be entrusted to take care of the child. Parents can name a guardian in their will to safeguard their childreleave n's welfare in the case of such a situation. This same guardian can also help manage the property left to your minor children in the will, under the title "property guardian." However, the property and personal guardian do NOT have to be the same person.

6. In most cases, you have to leave something to your spouse.

Whatever the situation or relationship with your spouse, state law protects the spousal right to inherit. However, this does not mean you necessarily have to leave something in your will to your spouse. Keep in mind that if you choose to leave your spouse out of your will, your spouse does have the right to go to court and claim part of your estate.

5. Yes, you can disinherit children in your will.

This short statement says it all: there is no legal requirement (in most cases) for you to leave your children with a portion of your estate.

4. Just because you don't mention something in your will, doesn't mean something won't happen with it.

If you don't specifically mention how all of your assets are distributed, state law will dictate where the rest of your assets go. Because of this, many wills include a "leftover" or residual clause, that provides that all assets not specifically mentioned go to the will beneficiaries.

3. There are estate taxes: even if some of your property isn't part of your estate it could be taxed under estate law!

Certain assets (such as life insurance, trusts, and retirement plans among others) are considered part of your estate. Keep this in mind and check with your state estate law to see what parts of your estates are taxable. State estate law changes quite frequently, so stay updated!

2. Even if your will is legal, it can still be challenged (even after you die).

Note that this is not a reality in most cases, but the situation of your will being challenged remains a possibility no matter how legally sound your will is. Don't be alarmed though, if your will is legally sound (review it with an attorney to be sure of its validity), it will most likely stand up in court.

1. Don't remove the staples in your will!

Yea....we know what you're thinking. It sounds bizarre but many states require that staples not be removed from wills or else the will will have been believed to be altered. Stay on the safe side and keep those staples intact. This is just many of the technicalities of a will. Again, we emphasize checking with your state estate law, for example, in some states, the will has to be initialed on each page by the will creator!

Got more questions? We Got Your Back.

Proper estate planning puts you in charge of your finances and spares your family from delay, frustration, and conflict that can occur at the time of death or disability. We focus our efforts on education and counseling to assure that our clients understand the estate planning process and the documents they have signed. The Gracey Law Firm can quickly and efficiently implement estate plans that are both comprehensive and personal to the client.  Schedule a free intial consultation with us today!

For other helpful resources on will and estate planning, check out:

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