A will, or a Last Will and Testament, is the central piece of any estate plan. A will properly drafted and signed is a document that specifies exactly how you want your property distributed upon your death. Your will identifies who you want to act as the Executor of your estate whose job it will be to conduct all the transactions necessary to gather your assets, pay your debts, and distribute your property to those you designate to receive it. A will may also nominate who you want to serve as guardian for your children if you should die before your children reach age 18.
The law is very specific what may and may not legally qualify as a valid will. Because of the importance of a will, the document must be approved as valid by the Probate Court at the start of the estate proceedings before any of its provisions will be given effect. An improper will, lacking necessary witnesses or clear language demonstrating the intent of the decedent and an understanding that the document is intended as the decedent’s last will and testament won’t be accepted as legal in the Probate Court. There are “off the shelf” documents available from the internet and other sources that may act as a form for a valid will, but those forms have no assurance that what is created will be accepted by the court or in fact express your intent for your property after you die. The documents generated by such sources may not take into account your individual circumstances. Such a will also may not necessarily be signed and witnessed as the law requires, and thereby may be invalidated.
“The costs for a will with competent legal help is well worth the small investment.”
A carefully prepared last will and testament from a capable law firm working in consultation with you is your best assurance that your plans will be realized after your death. In comparison to the stakes involved in making an error, the costs for a will with competent legal help is well worth the investment.
Our clients almost universally choose to keep their original wills and other estate documents for safekeeping at our office at no extra charge. They take copies and have copies sent to their fiduciary nominees and sometimes their beneficiaries with information that the original is at our office. This way, the original does not get lost or locked away where no one can find it or access it. Oddly enough to many people, a bank safe deposit box is perhaps the worst place to keep your will. After you die, no one else can open the box without a court order to have the box drilled and accessed at considerable expense.
The best place to begin preparing your estate planning documents is our Estate Planning Questionnaire. Print that out, fill it out, and mail or email it to our office. We can then identify your needs and discuss what things will cost without any financial commitment on your part beforehand.