Jill’s Blog: A First Look at Wills, for February 24, 2014

Did you ever notice how easy it is to avoid doing something you don’t want to do?

Have you thought you should write your will, but you never get around to doing it?

Unless you are powerfully motivated, either to make sure somebody is taken care of in your absence, or to keep somebody else from getting your assets, it’s probably not on your “things to do today” list.

We hear the term “will” frequently, but what is it, exactly?

A will tells our heirs what we want done with our property after we die. It can be handwritten, prepared by a lawyer after a discussion on your circumstances and wishes, or you can record a video where you tell your heirs, or those who think they should be, what you want done with your property. This is referred to as “the disposition of your assets.”

A will can be as simple as a few words written in blood on a tractor fender when the writer realized his death was imminent, as described in Wikipedia.  Or it can be a detailed plan for the itemized distribution of every asset, owned or potential. Most people find something in between those extremes.  Either way, it is wise to think about it and make a plan that fits your choices.  It is, of course, one of those things that may not be done the way you want if you wait too long.

It is our goal to make you aware of some of your choices, and some of the terminology, which may be foreign to many people. For example, a testator is the person who makes the will and decides how his property is to be distributed, to whom and in what form. You may also hear of a holographic will, in which the essential elements are written in the testator’s handwriting, instead of being typed or printed.

Another term you may hear is undue influence, which means just what it says: somebody may appear to have controlled the testator’s actions or decisions in some way that the testator otherwise would not have done. Undue influence is presumed if:

A beneficiary is one of the two required witnesses to the will, or
A person with a confidential (lawyer-client, doctor-patient, clergy-penitent) relationship with the testator, improperly benefits from that relationship.

We will discuss this further. If you have any questions, please e-mail us.