Wills are the foundation of estate planning. A will tells your family and the court your final wishes, so that your wishes will indeed be carried out.
What does a will do?
A will can be very simple, or it can be very complex. Most people know that a will contains their wishes as to how their property should be distributed after they die. However, some other important things a will can do is:
- Name your executor.
- Name guardians for your children and the property you leave for them.
- Provide for your pets.
- Leave property for charities
- Clean up after your living trust
What Are the Legal Requirements of a Will?
The legal requirements of a will are simple. You need to:
- Know what you have,
- Demonstrate that you know who are the people who would normally get your property after your death,
- Create a document that leaves at least some of your property to at least one beneficiary named in that document,
- Sign the document in front of two witnesses, and
- Have the document signed by those two witnesses.
Although notarization is not required, a notarized self-proving affidavit will make it easier to probate your will.
In some states you can make a holographic will. This document does not have to be witnessed, but it must be be entirely in your handwriting. You should only do this if you do not have time to create a properly witnessed and executed will.
Some common errors of DIY will writers
Wills are not hard to write, but they do require some care and precision.
Some of the most common mistakes that can result in invalid wills:
- Failing to have the will witnessed and/or signed by the witnesses
- Having only one witness
- Using a will form, and then crossing out certain parts
- Using a will form, and then adding handwritten provisions
- Using a will form that has fill in the blank lines
Some common errors that can make a will easier to challenge:
- Completely disinheriting a husband or wife
- Failing to mention a husband or wife
- Leaving unequal shares of property to children, without an explanation
- Failing to mention some of thechildren
- Leaving property to friends instead of family
- Leaving property to a pet
Having a will is good for you and your family
Although not everyone needs a will, it is a good thing to have for most people. A will is easy to make on your own, and it will save your family a ton of hassle after your death.
By Steve Harton
Steve is an estate planning attorney in Rock Springs, Wyoming. If you would like some help writing a will in Wyoming, please give him a call, at 307-382-5545.