It is something everyone needs and we all know we should have, yet the majority of Americans fail to make a will. In most cases, people want to make a will, they just never get around to it. The results are often tragic. For example, the person who was dependent on the deceased may be left without property or income when the deceased personís estate passes to the next of kin under the laws of intestate succession.For parents with minor children, it is much better to name a guardian for your child and the child's property in your will. Otherwise, a guardian will be chosen by the court. If you die without a will, the person appointed as executor of your estate, and therefore given authority to oversee all your property and final affairs, may not be someone you trust. There are a myriad of other problems caused by failure to make a simple will.
Making a basic will does not take a lot of time. If you have an existing will but want to replace it with a new will, the Quick & Legal Will Book by Denis Clifford explains how to do that. Codicils are also covered. If you want to disinherit an heir, leave your estate to your children in unequal shares, or forgive an outstanding debt at the time of your death, the Quick & Legal Will Book by Denis Clifford provides information on how to address these issues in your will. This estate planning book also provides an overview of related issues such as probate, living trusts, estate taxes, marital property, second marriages, and living wills. Written by an attorney with extensive experience in the field of estate planning, wills, and trusts, this estate planning book features fill in the blank will forms so you can make a will in the same amount of time it takes to watch a movie.
Have Your Will Reviewed by a Lawyer
Prior to executing a will, consult an estate planning attorney about your estate and applicable state laws. Failure to have your estate plan reviewed by an attorney can have serious financial, tax, and legal consequences for your heirs and beneficiaries. In the same way that an accountant can save you money on your annual income tax returns, an experienced estate planning lawyer can help you leave the largest inheritance for your heirs, maximize donations to charity, and structure a succession plan for your business. For more information, see Wills and Trusts.Another important reason to have your will reviewed by an attorney is the unique nature of state laws. Most people are unaware that inheritance rights and probate procedures are different from state to state. A lawyer can explain who has the right to inherit your property, the requirements to make a valid will, whether your estate will be subject to probate, whether your estate is likely to owe estate taxes, and related issues based on the laws of the state where you live. For information on laws that apply to making a will in your state, see State Laws.
Living Trust Books
Some people can benefit greatly from including a living trust in their estate plan. Other people do not need a living trust. Whether you need a living trust is entirely dependent on your own unique circumstances, the type and amount of property in your estate, and what you want to accomplish with your estate plan.When deciding how to plan your estate, the first step is to consult an attorney. An attorney can advise whether you should make a living trust. If you do need a living trust, it doesnít need to be expensive. Although it is preferable to have an attorney prepare your living trust, it is possible to make your own living trust with the right resources and knowledge. Do not attempt to make your own estate planning trust if you do not have a legal background or extensive experience in business transactions.The book Make Your Own Living Trust by Denis Clifford includes living trust forms and step by step instructions on how to prepare and fund your living trust. Numerous tear out will and trust forms and estate planning worksheets are included. Make Your Own Living Trust also explains the process of what happens after the maker of a living trust, called the grantor or settlor, dies. It covers the duties of a successor trustee, how the successor trustee transfers property to final beneficiaries of the trust, filing tax returns, and related trust administration issues.When you establish a living trust as part of your estate plan, your will should be consistent with the distribution plan outlined in your living trust. A new will, called a pour over will is typically made at the same time as a living trust. See types of wills. This book explains how to ensure your will does not conflict with your living trust. Another book that contains living trust forms is Living trusts, and simple ways to avoid probate: with forms by Karen Ann Rolcik.Ideally, you should have an attorney prepare your will, living trust, and other estate planning documents. However, if you have to make an estate plan on your own, be sure to carefully review a comprehensive reference manual on the drafting and preparation of living trusts. Even if you have access to several books on living trusts, it is extremely difficult to properly draft a trust agreement without extensive training. To learn how to avoid common mistakes when drafting a living trust, see
Using Living Trust Forms.
Estate Planning Software to Make a Will
For software to make your own will, living trust, power of attorney, and other estate planning documents, go to our estate planning software page. It provides a complete list of documents you can make using estate planning software.
Make a Complete Estate Plan
If you are ready to put your affairs in order, there is a comprehensive planner available that will help you get organized and gain peace of mind. Written by Melanie Cullen, the book Get It Together: Organize Your Records So Your Family Won't Have To explains how to store your will, living trust, advance health care directives, last wishes on funeral and other final arrangements, guardianship for minor children, caretaker for pets, life insurance documents, employment information, other financial records, and much more. If you are making a will or living trust, read Melanie Cullen's book Get It Together at the same time. Whether you are leaving on a trip, facing a serious illness or just want to avoid leaving a complicated mess for your survivors, this estate planning book is highly recommended.
How to Make a Self-Proving Will
One of the reasons you should always have your will, trust, codicils, and trust amendments prepared by an attorney is to ensure they are valid and enforceable so your last wishes will be followed. A step that is often taken when making a will is executing a self-proving affidavit to make the will self-proved. There are different laws from state to state regarding how to properly execute a will. For information on the use of this type of will form in your state, go to
self-proving will forms.
Books on Will and Trust Law
The following books provide in-depth information on state and federal laws applicable to wills, trusts, and
estate administration:1. Wills and Trusts in a Nutshell by Robert L. Mennell and Sherri Burr2. Wills, Trusts & Estates by Jeffrey N. Pennell and Alan Newman3. Wills, Trusts, and Estates by Jesse Dukeminier and Robert H. Sitkoff4. Wills, Trusts, and Estates Administration by Suzan D. Herskowitz5. Principles of Wills, Trusts, and Estates by William M. McGovern, Sheldon F. Kurtz, and David English