A will is a legal document that details an individual’s final “will” or wishes for handling his or her end of life and disbursement of the property after death. For many people, passing on one’s wealth and assets to loved ones after death is a very important consideration. It is never safe to assume your final wishes will play out exactly how you intend without legally binding documentation in place; a will is the best way to satisfy this requirement.
The legal definition of a will is a signed document that includes directions from the testator or owner of the will pertaining to the end of life, burial, and the passing on of his or her estate. While the estate itself generally includes specific directions regarding disbursement, the will ensures the family executes the estate’s directions in accordance with the testator’s wishes. In Virginia, a will is only legal and binding if it is signed by the testator or signed by a representative of the testator in the presence of and at the direction of the testator. If you need assistance in preparing a will as you wish, our attorneys at Williams Stone, PC are happy to assist. We have convenient office locations throughout northern Virginia, including Stafford, Fredericksburg & Manassas.
Why Are Wills Important?
Many people pass away believing their surviving loved ones will remember their final wishes and follow them accordingly. However, without a legally binding will of some kind in place, this rarely happens. Even close family members can get into bitter arguments about how to disburse a deceased relative’s estate, and it is possible the family members may handle the deceased’s final arrangements out of line with his or her wishes. For example, many people oppose cremation for personal or religious reasons. Without a will in place that specifically states this preference, it is possible for a family member to violate this preference and schedule a cremation in lieu of burial.
Wills also help ensure a deceased individual’s property and assets find their way into the possession of close relatives and loved ones and do not go to unintended recipients. Ultimately, a will helps to ensure that the will testator’s final wishes for end-of-life and burial are met and that his or her property is passed down to the testator’s intended recipients.
Having a will also allows the testator to designate an executor, or a personal representative responsible for disbursing the contents of the testator’s estate according to the testator’s wishes. A will also potentially lighten the financial burden facing the surviving family members by streamlining the legal process of estate disbursement thanks to the clear direction it provides.
Types of Wills
It is possible for a will to take many different forms. If you or a loved one plan to write a will soon, determine which type would best suit your needs:
- Simple wills are the best option for a testator with uncomplicated finances. For example, if the testator only possesses physical property and a few financial accounts, a simple will can ensure his or her property reaches the intended recipients with minimal expense and confusion. A simple will must be printed, contain the testator’s name, address, and marital status, and include statements for each asset and the testator’s intention for disbursement of said assets. A simple will should also include a section naming an executor of the testator’s estate and a guardian for his or her children.
- Joint wills are common among married couples and essentially allow two people to act as testators and trustees for one another. Essentially, when one testator dies, the other gets everything, and the two testators develop a plan for when the second testator dies. It is only possible to amend a joint will with the consent of both testators.
- Living wills do not offer directions pertaining to the disbursement of one’s property after death but instead revolve around the testator’s wishes should he or she become too ill to make important decisions about end-of-life care and burial. For example, if you were to become too ill to live without a feeding tube and artificial life support but do not want to endure this type of treatment, a living will stipulate your preferred path in this situation.
Wills are flexible and important documents, providing guidance to survivors and peace of mind to testators knowing their final wishes can be easily understood and honored at the end of their lives.
Writing a Legally Sound Will
Simply writing your final wishes down by hand and hoping your family follows through with your instructions is not enough. To ensure your family receives your estate assets as you intend with minimal hassle, a properly drafted will can be a tremendous asset and we are happy to assist you.
Contact Williams Stone, PC Today
If you or a loved one has questions regarding wills in Virginia, our law firm can help. We are nearby with office locations in Stafford & Manassas.