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What is a Will?


Parent Embracing Child


What is It? A will is a legally enforceable document that specifies how you want your family taken care of and your property distributed after you die.You can also use it to specify a guardian for your minor children or pets.


How do you establish one? A fairly uniform layout is provided here:

  • It must be in writing. While there are certain exceptions to this requirement, these verbal (legally referred to as noncupative) wills should be avoided.

  • Begin with a statement that the writer is of legal age and is making the will freely, without duress, and is of sound mind

  • Establish the writer’s identity and establish that this document is the final will and testament

  • Name the executor (the person who will oversee the liquidation and distribution of the testator’s assets)

  • Name a guardian for any minor children, if applicable

  • The bequest section should specify beneficiaries for all of the testator’s assets (including real property) except for items with named beneficiaries such as insurance policies, joint accounts and payable on death accounts

  • If desired, include instructions about the testator’s funeral and burial wishes, but it is better to put these instructions in a separate document.

You should provide clear and reasonable instructions to minimize probate delays. Check with your jurisdiction, but most states require that the testator’s will be witnessed by at least two people and signed by the testator. After death, the will is filed with the local probate court.


Do I need one? It is in your beneficiaries’ best interests that you have a valid estate plan. Your jurisdiction’s procedures for when someone dies intestate (without a will) may not align with your wishes. That’s why you should call an estate planning attorney in your area. If you are looking for an estate planning attorney in the Tysons Corner area, call us about a free consultation for your estate plan.

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