Saturday, April 11, 2009

Make a Will - Do it Yourself

Far too many people die without a valid Will in place even though they are simple to create. You should make a Will If you have property that you wish to distribute at the time of your death. A will is a legal document designating the transfer of your property and assets after you die. The court steps in and distributes your property if you die without a will. This might not be how you would have wished things to be passed on.

What are the requirements for a valid Will? A valid Will must be:

• made by a person who is 18 years old or older

• it must be in writing

• it must be made voluntarily and without any pressure from any other person

• made by a person who is of sound mind (i.e. mentally competent). This means the person must be completely aware of the nature of the document being written and signed and is aware of the property and the identity of the people who may inherit

• it must be signed by the person making the Will in the presence of two witnesses

• signed by the two independent witnesses, after it has been signed, and in the presence of the person making the will.

A witness or the married partner of a witness cannot benefit from a Will. The Will is still valid If a witness is a beneficiary (or the spouse of a beneficiary), but the beneficiary will not be able to inherit under the Will. So, it is much better that a Witness should never be a Beneficiary from the Will.

It is advisable to ensure that the Will also includes the date on which it is signed, although it will be legally valid even if it is not dated,

As soon as the will is signed and witnessed, it is complete.

If someone makes a Will but it is not legally valid their estate will be shared out under certain rules (called Intestacy) not according to the wishes expressed in the Will.

It is especially important to make a Will if you have young children because it gives you the opportunity to designate a guardian for them in the event of your death. A court judge will appoint a guardian to care for your children if you do not name one, and it may not be someone you would have chosen yourself. .It is also important to Name an alternative guardian, just in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to act.

The people who you want to leave items to are called the Beneficiaries. Your Will should be witnessed by at least two independent people, but Witnesses should not be beneficiaries of the will, and only one copy should be signed.

You should also name an Executor, preferably two, to carry out your wishes as stated in your Will.

It does not have to be expensive to make a Will. It depends on your situation and the complexity of your estate, but you can often make a will legally and without any assistance from a solicitor. Some people try to save money by writing their Will completely by themselves but it is crucial to get the legalities right. You can read books to find out how to do this properly and there are a variety of online services that you can use to make your Will fairly inexpensively.

One tip to note regards mental incompetency. Extra steps should be taken at the time of the signing of the Will, such as getting a doctor's assessment, if is it anticipated that dissatisfied heirs might contest the Will based on a claim that the person creating the Will was not fully aware of what they were doing when they made their Will.

Make a Will and then sleep at night! Your family will thank you, one day, for having put this important document in place. It will save endless hassle and should also save your relatives and beneficiaries a great deal of money in the long run.

Solicitors make far more money from sorting out the estates of people who either left an invalid Will or none at all! It is the beneficiaries who have to pay this cost so make a Will that is valid and you will save them a lot of money!

John Higgins writes about financial matters.

He has written a guide explaining how to make a Will without using a Solicitor. Find out how at Make a Will.

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