Learn How to Prepare a Will and if you Will Need an Attorney
Small business owners work very hard to grow a successful company. So, to
make sure your loved ones receive what YOU want them to have, you must have a Will. Do not let the government make
those decisions for you. A Will is not difficult to make on your own. You could pay an attorney a couple of hundred
dollars, or you could read this advice.
1. If you die without a Will, state law determines who gets your property. Every state has its own rules, but generally
your closest relatives will get your property. Even if you don’t want them to have it.
2. A holographic Will is handwritten. Holographic Wills are legal in about half the states. To be valid, a holographic
Will must be written, dated and signed in the handwriting of the person making the Will. When preparing your own
3. When you make a Will, it’s not necessary to name an executor, but it’s always a very good idea to do so. The
executor is the person who will handle your property after you die. If you don’t name someone to take the job,
the court will appoint someone, an administrator, for you.
4. A Will does not need to be recorded or filed with any government agency, although it can be in a few states.
Just keep your Will in a safe, accessible place and be sure the person in charge of settling your affairs (your
executor) knows where it is.
5. A Living Will is not a Will. It’s a legal document, sometimes called a health care directive, that ensures your
wishes for health care will be respected if ever you are unable to speak for yourself.
6. With a few important exceptions, property left by a Will must go through probate, the legal process of proving
in court that a Will is valid. Once the Will is determined to be legal, they distribute the deceased person’s property
as mentioned in the Will. However, most states allow a certain amount of property to pass free of probate, or through
a simplified probate procedure. Any property left to a surviving spouse avoids probate altogether. Beyond this,
you must use other legal devices, such as a Living Trust, to avoid probate.
7. A Living Trust is a popular probate avoidance device that you create by preparing and signing a trust document.
When you die, the property in the trust is distributed directly to the trust beneficiaries, without probate. Your
Will is an essential back-up device for property that you don’t transfer into the trust. If you don’t have a Will,
any property that isn’t transferred by your Living Trust or other probate avoidance device (such as joint tenancy),
will go to your closest relatives as determined by state law.
8. A codicil is a separate legal document that, after it has been signed and properly witnessed, changes or amends
a Will. To avoid confusion, however, it’s often best to prepare a brand new Will rather than a codicil, especially
if you are using a computer Will program. It won’t take long to prepare a new computer-generated Will, and the
signing and witnessing requirements for both are the same.
9. While it is true that all property you own at your death is taxed, the amount of this tax is automatically set
off by a large tax credit. The amount of this credit depends on the year of your death; it’s $650,000 in 1999.
The result is that most estates, more than 98% by one estimate, owe no federal estate taxes at all.
10. Sitting down and writing a Will can take a lot of time, and may be very confusing. Using computer software
will make the job much easier, save you tons of money, and you’ll have a more complete legal document.