Regardless of your age, writing a will helps ensure that your wishes are respected after you die. Understanding the nature of wills can help you develop an estate plan to provide for your heirs.
History of Last Wills and Testaments
Ancient Greek and Roman citizens wrote the first wills. While their form has changed over time, their purpose remains to ease the burden on your loved ones at your death. As is true of much of the legal system, the first wills in the U.S. were structured like those people used in Europe. President Washington left a will where he left his property to his wife, Martha.
Types of wills
When creating your estate plan, deciding on the best will best meet your needs is essential. A simple will allows you to say who should get your assets and can name a guardian for minor children. A testamentary will places some of your assets in a trust and name a trustee to oversee it. A joint will is usually executed between spouses and leaves all assets to the other person. Since it cannot be changed, even after a spouse’s death, it is generally avoided. A living will allows others to make decisions for you if you cannot make them for yourself, even for a little while.
What must a will contain?
There are only a few things that a last will and testament must contain, but there are some minor variations between states. In Illinois, it must be written by a competent person who signs their name to it, and at least two people must watch the person sign their name. There is no requirement that the will contain specific language.
Wills, and the rest of your estate plan, should be reviewed regularly. Regular reviews eliminate outdated bequests and language that could make it difficult to execute your will after your death.