Last Will And Testament

Updated on January 5, 2024
Article byJyotsna Suthar
Edited byprarthana Khot
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

What Is A Last Will And Testament?

The last will and testament refer to a legal document that decides who will inherit the property and belonging of a person after their demise. The main purpose of this will is to allow a person to make decisions about assets and holdings after their death.

Last Will And Testament

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Last will play a vital role in the disposal of belongings. It avoids any lengthy processes while distributing the testator’s assets. An individual can decide who will get their major property. Also, it provides flexibility while paying death taxes. When a will is absent, the state takes possession of the deceased’s property.

Key Takeaways

  • The last will and testament allow individuals to prepare a legal document that decides who will inherit their property and states the final wishes after their death.
  • For signing up a will, the testator (will owner) has to be at least 18 years and of sound mind. They can also apply for their last will and testament online.
  • This testament determines the share of the property, number of beneficiaries, debts, the appointment of an executor, and the testator’s final wishes.
  • The last will and testament get enacted after a person’s death, while the living comes to force in the event of sickness.

Last Will And Testament Explained

The last will and testament explain the consequences of property and belongings after a person’s death. It deals with the final wishes and states how they want to treat their property after death. However, a person must make separate last will and testament forms in case of overseas property.

Even though will has been part of human history for centuries, it had its greatest impact on ancient Greece and Rome. The older family member used to prepare a document stating its wishes and disposal of property. Following the incident, the use of will traces in England. Not only do the testators specify the inherited members, but also their share of the inheritance. Even Americans followed the same practice of wills. According to a study by Gallop, 45% of Americans have a will as they wish to practice inheritance, while most will owners belong to the older age group.

A person (testator) signing a last will and testament form must follow certain procedures. Although the will is prepared well in advance, the effect occurs only after death. The person writing the will (also known as the executor) handles the testator’s property. In the absence of an executor, the legal heir appoints a person who looks after the estate. The probable court and executor see that the testator’s final wishes occur properly.

While the testator mentions some probate assets in the will, they can transfer other assets directly to heirs or co-owners. It includes life insurance, retirement plans, jointly owned property, and similar things. If both parents die, the other family members do not get custody of minor children. Instead, the person assigned as the guardian in the will gets custody.

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Will Requirements

A person has to follow certain guidelines for making their will valid. First, let us look at the requirements of a successful valid will:

  • They must be over 18 years old and of sound mind to qualify.
  • The document must be in writing and signed duly by the testator.
  • Finally, a notarial seal or signature of the probable court is necessary to make it valid.

If a person fails to make a will, the property might get seized by the government. However, married civil partners or children inherit the property in the United Kingdom. Individuals can easily apply for the last will and testament online, providing certain details. But if there is mental competence absence of witnesses, the will can turn invalid. As a result, some individuals prefer last will and testament lawyers to proceed with it.

According to the Wills and Caring Survey, 40% of Americans do not own any will. 33% of the population feels that they do not have enough wealth left behind. In contrast, the rest find it either expensive or difficult to get a will. The number of teenagers with a will has risen by 50% post-pandemic. However, the age group above 55 is the active one to opt for a will. This percentage in 2020 was 48%; however, in 2022, it dropped to 45%.

Format

While preparing the will, the testator and lawyers need to follow a format. So, first, let us look at the last will and testament template of a testator:

Elements of a Will

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  1. Expenses – A personal representative will pay all the expenses after the testator’s death. And, if any debt or taxes are unpaid, they will have the right to pay them out.
  2. Personal Representative – The testator might appoint a person who will perform the above act. However, suppose the representative fails to perform. In that case, another person (nominated by the testator) will act on its behalf.
  3. Disposition Of Property – This clause of the last will and testament template decides the beneficiaries of the testator’s property. It appoints any guardian for any minor children. If the property cannot get sold, the executor should donate to any organization. Despite being unable to sell or donate, the representative can dispose of the property and pay the taxes to the State.
  4. Bond – This format states that the executor performing on the testator’s behalf shall not be given any bond or security as fees.
  5. Discretionary Powers Of Personal Representative – It directs the personal representative’s rights without court approval.
  6. Contesting Beneficiary – It states that the agreement will get canceled if any beneficiary revolts or disagrees with the will. They won’t get any share of the testator’s property.
  7. Gender – The person appointed by the testator can be called “executor” or “administrator.” They have the prime right to look over the belongings of the testator.
  8. Assignment – This clause states that the beneficiaries cannot use the testator’s property to pay off their debts.
  9. Governing Law And Binding Arrangement – It states the rules and regulations governing the country or State. And, the concerned persons involved will have to follow them duly.

Example

Let us look at the will & testament example to comprehend the concept better.

Ronald James Read passed away as a great American investor and philanthropist. He worked at a gas station and was a janitor. Read led to a simple lifestyle and high savings. His little saving habit made him amass great wealth, which he, in turn, invested into equity, like, blue chip stocks. A decade later, his small savings were more than 8 million dollars. Read left $2 million to his stepchildren and more than $6 million in his last will and testament to his local hospital and library.

The most interesting will refers to the first President of the United States, George Washington. In the will he left to his wife, he stipulated that the testament would free all of the enslaved people at his workplace upon his death.

Last Will And Testament vs Living Will

Although testament and living will fall under the category of wills, they are distinct. The former gets enacted after the person’s death, while the latter comes to force in the event of sickness. In comparison, the former’s purpose is to give away or dispose of property, and the latter aims to keep a proxy who will help at times of illness. Yet, an individual can hold both wills.

SectionsLast Will And TestamentLiving Will
MeaningIt is a document that states property disposal after a person’s death.It is a document stating a person’s medical and health care in the event of incapacity. 
Minor childrenCan appoint a guardian No provisions are needed. Needs living trust or witness. 
PurposeTo elect an executor for distributing the assets and belongings. Keep a health proxy who will take care and advise the will owner.
Used whenAfter the death of a person When a person is suffering from a major illness. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Do the last will and testament need to be notarized?

The need to notarize the will to make it legal does not arise. Most states do not demand any notary as the will is self-approving.

2. How much does a last will and testament cost?

The last will and testament lawyers charge a fee of $150, making it affordable to the normal public.

3. Can a last will and testament be changed?

Yes, it is possible to notarize the will. The person must destroy the previous will and create a new one or add a “Codicil.” This document must be signed and executed the same way as the will.

4. How to make a last will and testament?

Following are the steps on how to make a will or testament:
– Identify the assets and belongings
– Appoint an executor or personal representative
– Discuss all the debts and assets with the executor
– Decide the beneficiaries
– Sign and hold the will.

This has been a guide to What is Last Will And Testament. Here, we explain its requirements, format, example, and comparison with the living will. You may also find some useful articles here –

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