Although no one likes to think about falling ill or passing away, it's important to plan for it. Preparing a will allows you to make sure your money and property goes to the people you want them to go to. It's also important to let your loved ones know your wishes if you ever unable to communicate your wishes. The process of estate planning is the way to plan for death or incapacitation. FindLaw's section on Estate Planning Forms and Tools provides various forms and tools to help you with estate planning. In this section you can find samples for various estate planning tools, such as a sample will, a sample health care power of attorney, and a sample living will. There is also a helpful estate planning checklist and a questionnaire to prepare you for meeting with an estate planning attorney.
Contents of a Basic Will
While there isn't a standard, legally foolproof will, there are some basic elements that pretty much every will contains. A will should begin by making it clear that it's meant to be a will and include the full name and residence of the testator (the person who is making the will). It's also always a good idea to include a statement revoking any previous wills. The will should include to whom you would like to leave your money and property. If you would like to leave specific belongings or amounts of money to various people, you can list these wishes in the will. If, on the contrary, you simply want to leave everything to one person, you could make a general statement conveying that information. A will should also designate an executor to handle estate administration. It's usually a good idea to include an alternative executor, in case the original executor can't or won't take the responsibility of being the executor. Finally, the testator must sign and date the will. While these are the basic elements of a will, it's important to check the laws of your state to find out the requirements for drafting a will in your state.
Living Wills and Powers of Attorney
All of the states in the U.S. have laws concerning the ability of people to make decisions about their medical care before there is a need for treatment. A living will or advanced directive is a document that allows people to explain the type and duration of medical care they would like to receive if they are in a situation where they can't communicate those wishes. Each state has its own laws regarding what can be included in a living will, which is why it's important to check the laws in your jurisdiction or consult with an attorney when drafting a living will.
It's worth mentioning that a living will and a health care power of attorney concern similar matters, but are very different. As previously mentioned, a living will explains the wishes of the person in the event that he or she can't communicate the wishes him or herself. A health care power of an attorney can also have the same information as a living will, but it also designates a person to have the legal ability to make medical decision on a person's behalf. The health care power of attorney is only valid in the event that the person who makes the document is unable to make medical decisions for him or herself.
Hiring an Estate Planning Attorney
Wills can be fairly easy to draft if a person doesn't have very many assets. However, if you have a lot of assets or a complex situation, you should probably hire an estate planning attorney to help you with your will. Regardless of the size of your estate, if you have questions or concerns about estate planning, you might want to consult with an attorney.