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How Do I Get A Will Prepared Right?
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How do I get a Will Prepared Right?

I believe every word I write here will be a word to the wise. Preparing a will is a very wise and forward thinking thing to do and your heirs should appreciate the effort and forethought you put into the document. Considering the disposition of one's worldly goods is a serious and sober undertaking. My hat is off to you.

What do I give to whom?

Before you begin to prepare your will, collect your thoughts on the matter. Including insurance proceeds, will you be passing on a sizable estate? Will the heirs squabble among themselves over the items and properties, the money and directions? Who do you know who is wise, fair, and trustworthy whom you can trust to serve as your executor or executrix? In my humble opinion, this is a place to start.

As you probably know, most people pass on without having prepared a will and their heirs are left to trust Probate Court to dispose of the assets. This uses up some of the estate and the time before disposition allows things and land to deteriorate from disuse or be lost, stolen, or heirs to die or move away. You will save your heirs this hassle and the cost to your estate by clarifying the whole matter through your will.

What you give whom is strictly up to you. This is your most personal decision. This is your last word to your family, friends, and anyone else named in your will.

If I have more than one will, which one is valid?

When you have made a will, if you have reason to change it, the most recent one makes all others invalid. Only the most recent will is the only one in force, even if something or someone is named in an earlier will but not named in the most recent.

Does the will have to be certified?

Your will, although it is a legal document, can be as simple as nothing more than a letter written for this purpose on paper in your own handwriting. This is called a "holographic will." It stands as solid as any produced by any law firm in the country. Although a lawyer or at least a good form and directions would make it easier to consider all the matters you should at this time, again, a handwritten will is ultimately sufficient. You may remember the scene in the movie "Jeremiah Johnson" where he finds the frozen body of another mountain man with a rifle and a note that started, "Being of sound mind and broke legs...I bequeath my rifle to whoever finds me..." That was a valid will bequeathing that man's worldly goods. It would hold up in court.

How do I get help?

I know of a legal training course with forms that will save you time in court and lawyer fees. If you anticipate any legal problems among your heirs or that there may be any drama involving your real property you should probably get some legal counsel. If you just want to make sure you do a good job with the forms and cover all the bases, you can do it yourself if you have some step by step directions.

The bottom line is that if your estate is going to be very complicated, you should probably discuss the matter with your CPA and see if he/she has a recommendation of a good will and probate attorney. If it is somewhat simpler, you should be able to do it with forms supplied or even write it out with pen and paper.

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