Elements of a Valid Will

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Factors that must be present in a valid will vary from state to state, so it is wise to check your own state’s requirements. Certain elements are often necessary:

  • Legal age: You must meet your state’s age requirements to make a will. Some states have exceptions for married minors and parents.
  • Sound mind: You must know that you are making a will, how much property you have, and the names of the descendents or relatives who should share in your

A Trust: Who Needs One

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Reasons for Having a Trust

A trust is a property arrangement whereby a trustee (such as a bank trust department or a person) takes care of, holds title to, and, in most cases, manages property for the benefit of someone else. Trusts are not for everyone but can fit the needs of certain people, including those whose estates approach or exceed the federal tax limit and those with young children or disabled family members who are unable to manage their …

Prepare Your Estate Plan: Print this Lesson

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1. Prepare Your Estate Plan — Introduction

How will your assets be distributed upon your death? Have you prepared for the distribution of your estate for the loved ones you will leave behind? Perhaps you have …

A Will: Who Needs One

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A will is an estate-planning tool that serves as your set of instructions regarding who gets your property and resources when you die. At a minimum, everyone needs a simple will. It is the document that most people use for transferring their property, and it is often the choice of young families and of others whose situations involve neither complex tax planning nor resource management for incapacitated family members. After death, the will is settled through the probate process.

To …

Gifting and Tax Strategies

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It is important to evaluate the effects of federal and estate taxes on estate planning. An estate may be subject to taxes before it is distributed to beneficiaries.

A specified portion of an estate is exempt from estate taxes. During 2012, the first $5,120,000 of an estate can be distributed to children or other heirs tax-free. The top federal estate tax rate on the taxable portion of an estate is 35% in 2012.

While most gifts or estates are not …

Gifts and Unlimited Marital Deduction

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A gift is a tax-free distribution of funds from one person to another. The 2013 Internal Revenue Service code allows you to give cash and/or property valued up to $14,000 to each of an unlimited number of recipients per year without tax consequences. A married couple can give up to $28,000 per year, per recipient.

Gifts made to recipients over time can help reduce a large estate, and the gifts are tax-free to recipients. The unlimited marital deduction permits gifts …

Will Kits and Forms

A will is not a good do-it-yourself project. The cost of working around a minor mistake in a will can far exceed the cost of having a will properly prepared by an attorney.

Nevertheless, will kits and forms are widely available on the Internet, in bookstores, office supply stores, and other places. People can be attracted to these products by their apparent simplicity and low cost, but it’s important to use them with caution. Always have an attorney review any …

Types of Wills

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There are several types of wills:

Attested wills are the most common type of wills. An attested will is usually prepared by a lawyer in typewritten form and signed in front of several witnesses who have no benefit in the will. All of the witnesses must sign it in front of one another and in front of the person making the will. The will-maker must also sign it in front of all of the witnesses. All of the previously mentioned …

Types of Trusts

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Each of the various types of trusts available has particular advantages. An estate attorney can advise you about the type of trust that is most appropriate for you and your family situation. The testamentary trust and living trust will be discussed here.

A testamentary trust is a legal instrument contained in the will that sets up the management of assets for one or more beneficiaries following the death of the person creating the trust (grantor). This type of trust is …

Steps in the Probate Process

Steps in the probate process include:

  • Petition for probate of the will or administration of the estate
  • Appointment of a personal representative
  • Notice to creditors
  • Assembly, inventory, and appraisal of property
  • Classification and payment of demands against the estate (such as debts of the decedent and liens against his or her property)
  • Determination of homestead rights and family allowances
  • Management (and sale, if necessary) of property
  • Payment of state and federal taxes
  • Accounting to the court and distribution of property