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What Is a Will?

A will is a legal estate planning document that allows you to designate beneficiaries who will receive your assets upon your passing. Unlike a trust, a will must be verified in court through the probate process. This means that at the time of your death, your beneficiaries will not receive personal property and real estate assets until the will is confirmed by the probate court to be valid and the identities of the beneficiaries are verified.

A will is distinguishable from a living trust, which is far more complex and usually not subject to probate. Wills lawyers may also be probate attorneys because they may be in a position to appear in court for the probate legal process after drafting wills for clients.

What Information is Required to Establish a Will?

Generally, a will must have a creator known as a testator. The testator must name beneficiaries who will receive distributions of assets under the will upon the death of the testator. The testator also designates an estate executor or personal representative who is a fiduciary, meaning that the executor will carefully manage the decedent-testator’s assets and diligently ensure that the beneficiaries receive will distributions as provided under the will. Depending on the jurisdiction and the nature of the document itself, a will may need to be accompanied by witness statements, signatures, and other legal confirmations.

How Much Does a Will Cost?

A will normally costs no less than $500, but may be more expensive depending on the individual circumstances of the testator, the assets contained in the will, and the extent of beneficiaries and beneficiary qualifications that are contemplated in the will. Because a will can also contain funeral and burial instructions, it may cost more to input tailored information in this regard.

Additional factors that may increase costs are the inclusion of durable power of attorney documents, living wills, or health care directives, which can be separately prepared alongside a trust to provide doctors and hospitals with your preferences in relation to medical care you may wish to receive or not receive during end-of-life or incapacitation. An estate planning lawyer can help you determine the extent of your needs.

Should I Hire an Estate Planning Attorney to Help Draft My Will?

A law firm specializing in elder law can help you decide the appropriate language for your will. Using law offices to assist you with drafting a will can give you peace of mind, knowing that your loved ones will be able to streamline estate administration and potentially avoid unnecessary estate taxes.

Oftentimes, will attorneys or estate planning lawyers will provide general legal advice through a free consultation. Their years of experience can help you decide how to best ensure proper will administration, tax planning, and other legal matters.

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