Wills and Trusts

8 Jul

Will; Last Will and Testament

Definition: (noun) A document, also known as a last will and testament, which directs the transfer of a decedent’s property to others, often naming an executor to administer the decedent’s estate. Wills contain bequests which devise (transfer) property to the heirs, who inherit property left to them.

Uses: Primarily to indicate the decedent’s wishes to transfer property after death. Transfers are called bequests, to heirs who inherit the property. Transfers can be general (all of my estate; or 50% to my son and 50% to my daughter); or they can be specific (my wedding ring and silver service to my daughter). Wills name an executor, who administers the estate and can, if necessary, hire a probate lawyer to help. A Will can indicate the decedent’s intent to dis-inherit a family member by including a specific bequest, e.g., $1 to my son, who has never made anything of himself. A guardian for minor children can also be identified in a Will.

Ask a Legal Question: Visit our Legal Q&A area to see if anyone has previously asked the question you have in mind. If so, the answer may be waiting for you. If not, you can add your own question for someone to answer. Members of some legal services plans enjoy a no-extra cost benefit of having their Will drafted by a Plan attorney. Legal Plans are frequently available at work as an employee benefit. Individual plans are available from companies like LegalShield, which offers plans throughout the United States and Canada.

Locate & Download:  Shop for legal forms, software and document preparation services by clicking the links below. A new window will open taking you to the vendor’s products, but allowing you to return to this page to make additional selections. Some vendors additionally allow you to select forms specific to your jurisdiction (law of your state, province, parish or country).

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Notes: Most jurisdictions have laws controlling intestate succession. When there is no Will, the decedent’s property transfers to the heirs according to the law. For example, one spouse’s property transfers to the surviving spouse when there is no Will; parents’ property transfers to their children. A Will might not be necessary when someone is comfortable with their jurisdiction’s laws pertaining to intestate succession. However a Will is helpful to the administration of the estate, by naming an executor to handle matters after death and direct the transfer of property in accordance with the decedent’s wishes.


Trust; Revocable Living Trust

Definition: (noun) A document which establishes a trust to which you can transfer property, naming a trustee who distributes the property in accordance with your instructions in the trust, after you die. As used in estate planning (legalese warning) “An equitable or beneficial right to land or other property is held for the beneficiary by the trustee”. Revocable trusts can be amended by the person making the trust, as long as they are alive and remain competent.

Uses: By transferring most of their property into a living trust, people can avoid probate as part of their estate planning.

Common Mistake: Failing to transfer property (e.g., deeds) and other assets (e.g., bank and investment accounts) into the trust. Creating the document and signing it is just the first step. Unlike a Will, you also have to move (transfer) property into the trust. For this reason, properly creating a trust is more complicated than a Will. At a minimum, refer to a self-help book for step-by-step guidance when setting up your trust, or consult with an estate planning attorney who can review your work and make sure you haven’t missed any important steps.

Ask a Legal Question: Visit our Legal Q&A area to see if anyone has previously asked the question you have in mind. If so, the answer may be waiting for you. If not, you can add your own question for someone to answer. Members of most legal services plans can get legal advice and have their trust document reviewed by a Plan attorney. Legal Plans are frequently available at work as an employee benefit. Individual plans are available from companies like LegalShield, which offers plans throughout the United States and Canada.

Locate & Download:  Shop for legal forms, software and document preparation services by clicking the links below. A new window will open taking you to the vendor’s products, but allowing you to return to this page to make additional selections. Some vendors additionally allow you to select forms specific to your jurisdiction (law of your state, province, parish or country).

Available at:

Standard Legal Forms Software
Find Legal Forms

More Complex Trusts: There are many types of trusts. Most people who create their own trust from a legal form or self-help law book are creating revocable living trusts which can be changed at any time, so long as the trustor is alive and competent. Irrevocable trusts which additionally protect from over-spending (spendthrift clause) and creditors, are more complex and generally require professional help (search for estate planning attorneys in your area).

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