Last Will and Testament Template (Will)

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Updated August 01, 2022

A last will and testament or will allows a person (the “testator”) to make a sworn statement about which person or people (beneficiary) will receive real estate and personal property after their death. Most states require two (2) disinterested witnesses to sign in order for the will to be valid. After signing, copies should be given to all beneficiaries and the testator’s attorney.

Table of Contents

Signing Requirements

Two (2) disinterested witnesses are required to make a will valid in every state except Colorado and Louisiana; they both require two (2) disinterested witnesses and a notary public (see table).

  • Disinterested Witness – An individual that has nothing to gain if the testator dies (cannot be a beneficiary).
  • Self-Proving Affidavit (optional) – Recommended being attached for the witnesses to swear under oath that they were in the presence of the testator while they signed.

By State

Essential Parts of a Will

Wills only need a few things to make them legal — the testator, the beneficiaries and assets, and a few disinterested witnesses depending on state laws — but some wills include much more language that gives authority and protections to both the testator’s property and their executor. It’s best for a will to include the following sections:

  • Debts – How outstanding debts, like funeral expenses or any other expenditures that would be left behind by the testator would be paid.
  • Beneficiaries – The names of every individual who will be eligible to receive the estate.
  • Assets and property – A list of all valuables and to which beneficiary the assets will be given.
  • Personal representative (executor) – The testator will list a trusted person that is put in charge of paying bills, handling accounts, and distributing property among the beneficiaries. It’s usually recommended that the executor not be a beneficiary and instead be an attorney.
  • Testator’s signature – In order to be valid, the will must be signed in accordance with state law, and the testator must be of sound mind. If the testator is found to have signed under duress, the will would be considered invalid.
  • Witness signatures – Most states require two (2) disinterested witnesses to sign the will, but check the state signing requirements.

Sample

LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT

I, [NAME], resident in the City of [CITY], County of [COUNTY], State of [STATE], being of sound mind, not acting under duress or undue influence, and fully understanding the nature and extent of all my property and of this disposition thereof, do hereby make, publish, and declare this document to be my Last Will and Testament, and hereby revoke any and all other wills and codicils heretofore made by me.

1. EXPENSES & TAXES. I direct that all my debts, and expenses of my last illness, funeral, and burial, be paid as soon after my death as may be reasonably convenient, and I hereby authorize my Personal Representative to settle and discharge at their discretion any claims made against my estate.

I further direct that my Personal Representative shall pay out of my estate any and all estate and inheritance taxes payable by reason of my death in respect of all items included in the computation of such taxes, whether passing under this Will or otherwise. Said taxes shall be paid by my Personal Representative as if such taxes were my debts without recovery of any part of such tax payments from anyone who receives any item included in such computation.

2. PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE. I nominate and appoint [NAME], of [CITY], County of [COUNTY], State of [STATE] as Personal Representative of my estate and I request that (he/she) be appointed temporary Personal Representative if (he/she) applies. If my Personal Representative fails or ceases to so serve, then I nominate [NAME] of [CITY], County of [COUNTY], State of [STATE] to serve.

3. DISPOSITION OF PROPERTY. I devise and bequeath my property, both real and personal and wherever situated, as follows:

1st Beneficiary: [NAME], currently of [ADDRESS], as my [RELATION whose last four (4) digits of their Social Security Number (SSN) are xxx-xx-[XXXX] with the following property: [PROPERTY TO BE BEQUEATHED]

2nd Beneficiary: [NAME], currently of [ADDRESS], as my [RELATION whose last four (4) digits of their Social Security Number (SSN) are xxx-xx-[XXXX] with the following property: [PROPERTY TO BE BEQUEATHED]

3rd Beneficiary: [NAME], currently of [ADDRESS], as my [RELATION whose last four (4) digits of their Social Security Number (SSN) are xxx-xx-[XXXX] with the following property: [PROPERTY TO BE BEQUEATHED]

If any of my beneficiaries have pre-deceased me, then any property that they would have received if they had not pre-deceased me shall be distributed in equal shares to the remaining beneficiaries.

If any of my property cannot be readily sold and distributed, it may be donated to any charitable organization(S) of my Personal Representative’s choice.  If any property cannot be sold or donated, my Personal Representative may dispose of such property. I authorize my Personal Representative to pay administration expenses of my estate.

4. BOND. I direct that my executor shall not be required to give any bond or security for the performance of their duties.

5. DISCRETIONARY POWERS OF PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE. My Personal Representative, shall have and may exercise the following discretionary powers in addition to any common law or statutory powers without the necessity of court license or approval:

A. To retain for whatever period my Personal Representative deems advisable any property, and to invest and reinvest in any property, both real and personal.

B. To sell and to grant options to purchase all or any part of my estate, both real and personal, at any time, at public or private sale.

C. To lease any real estate for terms and conditions as my Personal Representative deems advisable.

D. To pay, compromise, settle or otherwise adjust any claims, including taxes, asserted in favor of or against me, my estate or my Personal Representative.

E. To make any separation into shares in whole or in part in kind and to allocate different kinds and disproportionate amounts of property and undivided interests in property among the shares.

F. To make such elections under the tax laws as my Personal Representative shall deem appropriate and to determine whether to make any adjustments between income and principal on account of any election so made.

G. To make any elections permitted under any pension, profit sharing, employee stock ownership or other benefit plan.

H. To employ others in connection with the administration of my estate and to pay reasonable compensation in addition to my Personal Representative’s compensation.

I. To vote any shares of stock or other securities in person or by proxy; to assert or waive any stockholder’s rights or privilege to subscribe for or otherwise acquire additional stock; to deposit securities in any voting trust or with any committee.

J. To borrow and to pledge or mortgage any property as collateral, and to make secured or unsecured loans. No individual or entity loaning property to my Personal Representative or trustee shall be held to see to the application of such property.

K. My Personal Representative shall also at his or her discretion determine the allocation of any GST exemption available to me at my death to property passing under this Will or otherwise. The determination of my Personal Representative with respect to any elections or allocation shall be binding upon all affected.

6. CONTESTING BENEFICIARY. If any beneficiary under this Will, or any trust herein mentioned, contests or attacks this Will or any of its provisions, any share or interest in my estate given to that contesting beneficiary under this Will is revoked.

7. GENDER. The term “Personal Representative” shall include “Executor” and “Administrator.” The use of a particular gender shall include any other gender, and references to the singular or the plural shall be interchangeable. All references to the Internal Revenue Code shall mean the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 or any successor Code. All references to estate taxes shall include inheritance and other death taxes.

8. ASSIGNMENT. The interest of any beneficiary in this Will, shall not be alienable, assignable, attachable, transferable nor paid by way of anticipation, nor in compliance with any order, assignment or covenant and shall not be applied to, or held liable for, any of their debts or obligations either in law or equity and shall not in any event pass to his, her, or their assignee under any instrument or under any insolvency or bankruptcy law, and shall not be subject to the interference or control of creditors, spouses or others.

9. GOVERNING LAW. This document shall be governed by the laws of the State of [STATE].

10. BINDING ARRANGEMENT. Any decision by my Personal Representative concerning any discretionary power hereunder shall be final and binding on all interested persons. Unless due to my Executor’s own willful default or gross negligence, no Executor shall be liable for said Executor’s acts or omissions or those of any co‑Executor or prior Executor.

I, the undersigned [NAME], do hereby declare that I sign and execute this instrument as my last Will, that I sign it willingly in the presence of each of the undersigned witnesses, and that I execute it as my free and voluntary act for the purposes herein expressed, on this [X] day of [MONTH], 20[X].

________________________________      ___________________________________
Testator Signature                                      Testator (Printed Name)

The foregoing instrument, was on this [X] day of [MONTH], 20[X], subscribed on each page and at the end thereof by [NAME], the above-named Testator, and by (him/her) signed, sealed, published and declared to be (his/her) LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT, in the presence of us and each of us, who thereupon, at (his/her) request, in (his/her) presence, and in the presence of each other, have hereunto subscribed our names as attesting witnesses thereto.

________________________________      ___________________________________
Witness Signature                                           Address

________________________________      ___________________________________
Witness Signature                                           Address

How to Make a Will (5 steps)

Step 1 – Identify Your Assets

testator writing down list of assets

Make a list of all the assets of the testator. This should also include any debts to help prepare the personal representative (executor) of the will.

Step 2. Appoint a Personal Representative (Executor)

testator reviewing list of assets with executor

A personal representative (or executor) is a person that will be in charge of delivering the testator’s assets to the beneficiaries after death. It is recommended that a personal representative be a trusted attorney and not a beneficiary.

Step 3. Choose Your Beneficiaries

testator in conversation with beneficiaries

The beneficiaries are the people who will receive the property and assets of the testator. If there are any children of family members that shouldn’t be included, this should be specifically mentioned in the will.

Step 4. Sign

testator signing will in front of witnesses and notary official

Under most states, a will can be signed with two (2) disinterested witnesses (except Colorado and Louisiana which require a notary public). Although, it is highly recommended to have notarized as a last will and testament can be contested for any reason by disgruntled family members that were left out.

Step 5 – Store Your Will

testator reviewing will

A will is meant to be kept in a safe place with original copies provided to the beneficiaries and legal counsel. At the option of the testator, they may register the will with the probate court in their county (if applicable).

How to Write a Will

DownloadAdobe PDF (.pdf)Microsoft Word (.docx)Open Document Text (.odt)

I. Introduction To Will

(1) Title. This declaration must have a title that immediately establishes its purpose to Reviewers. Thus, complete the title by furnishing the legal name of the Declarant after the words “Last Will And Testament…” This will be the Party issuing this document as his or her final instructions on how the assets he or she has accrued over life should be distributed therefore, his or her name full legal name should be displayed.

(2) Name Of the Testator. The Testator’s full name must be reproduced (from the title) on the first blank line in the introduction. Produce his or her name precisely as it was reported in the title of this document.

(3) City Of Residence. The name of the City where the Testator lives should be dispensed to aid in supporting the Testator’s identity. Supply the second space of this statement with this information.

(4) County Of Residence. Continue furnishing details regarding where the Testator maintains his or her residence by providing the name of the County where his or her home is found to the third available space.

(5) State Or Residence. Identify the State where the Testator lives as requested by this introduction.

II. Personal Representative

(6) Testator Personal Representative. Generally, a Personal Representative of the Testator will handle the assets of his or her estate after death. The Personal Representative should be a Party who is fully aware of the Testator’s last wishes and prepared to carry them out on his or her behalf. In order for the Personal Representative to wield such power, his or her full name must be presented on the first line of the Second Article.

(7) Address Of Residence. The home address of the Testator’s Personal Representative must also be documented in the Second Article. This address should be the physical address of the Personal Representative’s home thus requiring that the building number, street, and city of this residence be produced on the space preceding the bracketed “Address” label.

(8) County Of Residence. The name of the County where the Testator’s home is located should be documented on the space preceding the word “County.”

(9) State Of Residence. Complete reporting on the Personal Representative by producing the name of the State where he or she lives on the final line of this statement.

(10) Name Of Alternate Representative. When the Testator passes away, the dispersal of his or her estate will be left up to his or her Personal Representative. Unfortunately, there may be scenarios where the appointed Personal Representative will not be able to act in this capacity. To handle such a possibility, an alternate Personal Representative of the Testator may be named with the ability to handle this responsibility. Produce the name of the alternate Representative where requested. Keep in mind that unless specifically instructed in this will or in a legal codicil to this will, the Alternate Personal Representative will have no power to handle the assets of the Testator’s estate unless he or she is named here and the original Representative is ineffective or otherwise cannot/will not act in this role.

(11) Address Of Representative. Produce the full address (i.e. building number/street/apt/city) of the Alternate Personal Representative’s home on the line labeled “Address.”

(12) County Of Residence. Dispense the name of the County where the Alternate Personal Representative’s home is located to the third available space.

(13) State Of Residence. Identify the State where the residence of the Alternate Personal Representative is found.

III. Disposition Of Property

(14) First Beneficiary Name. This paperwork must name each Beneficiary that the Testator wishes to give his or her property to after death. Three distinct sections are available so that three Beneficiaries can be established. If the Testator wishes to bequeath property to more than three Beneficiaries, additional sections may be inserted provided that each one is sequentially titled (i.e. 4th Beneficiary, 5th Beneficiary, 6th Beneficiary, etc.). Begin with the section titled “1st Beneficiary. The line labeled “Full Name” should be populated with the legal name of the First Party the Testator wishes to name as his or her Beneficiary and thus entitle to ownership over the property named in this section upon his or her death. While there is no real requirement for the order of the Beneficiaries being named in this document, it is generally customary to present them as either those with the closest relation to the Testator to those with the most distant relation to the Testator or in the order of the monetary worth of the inheritance being documented.

(15) Home Address Of First Beneficiary. Naturally, there should be no question concerning the identity of the First Beneficiary. This requires a report on the full address of the First Beneficiary. Thus document the building number of the First Beneficiary’s home address or residence along with the appropriate street name, apartment number, City, and State to the line labeled “Address.”

(16) Relationship To Testator. The way in which the Testator is related to the First Beneficiary must be established. Use the “Relation” line in the “1st Beneficiary” section to present how the First Beneficiary is related to the Testator (i.e. the Testator’s Daughter, Niece, Nephew, Son, Spouse, etc.)

(17) Social Security Number. The last four digits of the First Beneficiary’s social security number should be dispensed to the space attached to “XXX-XX-” This will solidify the identity of the First Beneficiary for Reviewers of this document.

(18) Property To Be Bequeathed. Every asset, whether it is a physical asset such as a boat or an intangible asset such as the shares in a company that the Testator wishes to give to the First Beneficiary upon his or her death must be identified in the final area of this section. This requires that each asset the First Beneficiary should inherit from the Testator is identified so that it may be found and ownership transferred. For example, if the First Beneficiary is to receive the contents of the Testator’s safe deposit box, then the Institute safekeeping the safe deposit box must be identified by name and address, the Testator’s account number (if applicable) should be reported, the means necessary to access the Testator’s safe deposit box should be explained clearly, the contents of the safe deposit box should be fully identified, and the estimated value of this box and each of its contents should be recorded.

(19) 2nd Beneficiary Name. Now that the First Beneficiary has been identified, the Second Beneficiary must be named. Utilize the first space in the “2nd Beneficiary” section to present the entire name of the next Party to receive property from the estate of the Testator. Naturally, the Second Beneficiary named here may not be the same as the first one named and may not inherit the same assets (unless a clear percentage of ownership is defined). Document the Second Beneficiary’s legal name to the first line of this section as it is known on his or her government issued I.D. (i.e. Driver’s License/State I.D.).

(20) Address Of Second Beneficiary. The Second Beneficiary’s home address will also need to be documented. Therefore, deliver the building number, street or road, apartment number, City as well as the State of the Second Beneficiary’s home address to the second available space in the Second Beneficiary statement.

(21) Relationship To Testator. Categorize the relationship the Second Beneficiary has with the Testator on the line labeled “Relation.”

(22) Social Security Number. The final four digits in the social security number of the Second Beneficiary must be dispensed where requested by the appropriately formatted area of the statement being attended (“2nd Beneficiary”).

(23) Testate Property To Be Disbursed. Each asset that the Testator wishes to be released to the Second Beneficiary must be clearly defined. The Testator may bequeath both tangible and intangible property to the Second Beneficiary as defined in this area. Thus, name each asset to be given to the Second Beneficiary in the space provided. In addition to identifying the asset by name, make sure to provide its identification number (i.e. a manufacturer’s ID number in the case of a tangible asset or the account number of an intangible asset), how it may be accessed or released to the Second Beneficiary as well as its monetary value. Only the assets documented in this area will be given to the Second Beneficiary.

(24) 3rd Beneficiary Name. The “3rd Beneficiary” section will allow a third individual to be given the right to inherit one or more assets from the Testator. Produce the legal name of the 3rd Beneficiary on the first available line in this section.

(25) Address Of Third Beneficiary. The complete address of the Third Beneficiary home must be submitted to the space provided.

(26) Relationship Status. The manner in which the Third Beneficiary is related to the Testator should be reported on the empty line preceding the “Relation” label.

(27) Social Security Number. Confirm the identity of the Third Beneficiary by recording the last four numbers found in his or her social security number on the third space of the “3rd Beneficiary” statement.

(28) Property To Inherited By Third Beneficiary. The Testator assets that should be released to the Third Beneficiary upon death and through this document must be listed to the final area in the section titled “3rd Beneficiary.” The details of each such asset recorded here should enable it to be found, accessed, and its ownership transferred to the Third Beneficiary.

XI. Governing Law

(29) State Of Jurisdiction. The State whose jurisdiction shall govern this will, the Testator’s estate, and its dispersal must be identified. In most cases, this will be the State where the Testator maintains his or her residence.

XII. Binding Arrangement

(30) Name Of Testator. A final declaration concerning the execution of this will must be prepared before the Testator may sign it. Furnish the Testator’s name on the blank line that follows the term “…The Undersigned.”

(31) Date Of Final Wishes. The date when the Testator signs his or her name should be delivered across the final three lines of this paragraph.

(32) Testator Signature. The Testator must sign his or her name as two Witnesses and a Notary Public watch. The “Testator Signature” line has been provided for this action.

(33) Testator Printed Name. Once he or she has signed this will, the Testator must print his or her name.

XIII. Witness Testimony To Testator Signature

(34) Date Of Witness Statement. The Witness statement provided will enable both Witnesses to easily verify that each has observed the Testator signing this document. This statement will require some minor preparation before the Witnesses may verify it. Begin by supplying the signature date of the Testator to the formatted area.

(35) Testator Verification. The name of the Testator who each Witness has watched sign this document should be dispensed to the second space of the Witness statement provided.

(36) Witness Signature And Address. Each Witness must read the statement provided after watching the Testator’s execution of this document then sign his or her name and record his or her address.

(37) Affidavit Confirmation. The Notary Public shall report on the signing process that the Testator has completed under observation. He or she will complete the affidavit statement once the requirements for this process are satisfied. The Notary Public will also require that the Testator and Witnesses each sign this affidavit before he or she submits the credentials, seal, and signature needed to complete the notarization process.

Last Will and Testament Signing Requirements (By State)

Every state has its own requirements for the legality of a will. The testator’s primary residence, which is usually where state taxes are paid will govern the will. Most states require two (2) witnesses to attest and sign the will. See below for a complete list of state laws and signing requirements for wills.

State State Laws Execution Requirements
 Alabama  Title 43, Chapter 8  § 43-8-131
Two Witnesses
 Alaska  Title 13, Chapter 12  AS 13.12.502
Two Witnesses
 Arizona  Title 14  § 14-2502
Two Witnesses
 Arkansas  Title 28  § 28-25-102
Two Witnesses
 California  Sections 6100 to 6139  6110
Two Witnesses
 Colorado  CRS Title 15  § 15-11-502
Two Witnesses or Notary Public
 Connecticut  Chapter 802a  Section 45a-251
Two Witnesses
 Delaware  Title 12  DE Title 12, Chapter 2 § 201 & 202
Two Witnesses
 Florida  Chapter 732  FL Section 732.502
Two Witnesses
 Georgia  Title 53  GA Section 53-4-20
Two Witnesses
 Hawaii  Chapter 560  HI Section 560:2-502
Two Witnesses
 Idaho  Title 15  ID Section 15-2-502
Two Witnesses
 Illinois  755 ILCS 5  Section 755 ILCS 5/4-3
Two Witnesses
 Indiana  Title 29  IC 29-1-5-3
Two Witnesses
 Iowa  Chapter 633  Section 633.279
Two Witnesses
 Kansas  Chapter 59  Section 59-606
Two Witnesses
 Kentucky  Chapter 394  Section 394.040
Two Witnesses
 Louisiana  CC 1570  Art. 1577
Two Witnesses and a Notary Public
 Maine  Title 18-A, Article 2  Section 2-502
Two Witnesses
 Maryland  Title 4  Section 4-102
Two Witnesses
 Massachusetts  Chapter 190B  Section 2-502
Two Witnesses
 Michigan  Act 386 of 1998  Section 700-2502
Two Witnesses
 Minnesota  Chapter 524  Section 524.2-502
Two Witnesses
 Mississippi  Title 91, Chapter 5  Section 91-5-1
Two Witnesses
 Missouri  Chapter 474  Section 474.320
Two Witnesses
 Montana  Title 72  Section 72-2-522
Two Witnesses
 Nebraska  Chapter 30  Section 30-2327
Two Witnesses
 Nevada  Title 12  NRS 133.040
Two Witnesses
 New Hampshire  Chapter 551  Chapter 551
Two Witnesses
 New Jersey  Title 3B  Section 3B:3-2
Two Witnesses
 New Mexico  Chapter 45  Section 45-2-502
Two Witnesses
 New York  Estates, Powers, and Trusts  Section 3-1.1
Two Witnesses
 North Carolina  Chapter 31  G.S. 31-3.3
Two Witnesses
 North Dakota  Chapter 30.1-08  30.1-08-02. (2-502)
Two Witnesses
 Ohio  Chapter 2107  ORC 2107.03
Two Witnesses
 Oklahoma  Title 84  84 OK Stat § 84-55
Two Witnesses
 Oregon  Chapter 112  ORS 112.235
Two Witnesses
 Pennsylvania  Title 20  Title 20 § 2502
Two Witnesses
 Rhode Island  Title 33  Section 33-5-5
Two Witnesses
 South Carolina  Title 62  Section 62-2-502
Two Witnesses
 South Dakota  Chapter 29A-1  Section 29A-2-502
Two Witnesses
 Tennessee  Title 32  Section 32-1-104
Two Witnesses
 Texas  Probate Code  Sec. 251.051
Two Witnesses
 Utah  Title 75  75-2-502
Two Witnesses
 Vermont  Title 14  14 V.S.A. § 5
Two Witnesses
 Virginia  Title 64.2  § 64.2-403
Two Witnesses
 Washington  Title 11 RCW  CW 11.12.020
Two Witnesses
 Washington D.C. Title 18 DC Code § 18-103
Two Witnesses
 West Virginia  Chapter 41  Section 41-1-3
Two Witnesses
 Wisconsin  Chapter 853  Section 853.03
Two Witnesses
 Wyoming Title 2 (Wills, Decedents’ Estates and Probate Code) Section 2-6-112
Two Witnesses

How to Amend a Will

It’s possible for the testator to amend a will with a Codicil to a Will (or simply a “codicil”). Wills can be amended for any reason such as changing the executor, personal representative, beneficiary(ies), or any other facet in the transfer of the estate. The Codicil is required to be attached to the will and signed in accordance with state law.

Self-Proving Affidavit – It’s recommended that when any will amendment occurs through a Codicil that the two (2) witnesses authorize to swear, under oath, that they watched the signature of the testator.

Will vs Living Trust

Both a Living Trust and a will accomplish similar goals that deliver ownership of a person’s assets to their beneficiaries upon death. Although, there are differences depending on the circumstances of the individual.

Last Will and Testament

  • Probate court oversees your last will after your death.
  • Allows you to appoint a guardian for a minor.
  • Public knowledge after it is recorded.
  • Does Not avoid conservatorship, which is when a court appoints a representative to handle finances. However, a conservatorship can be avoided with a Durable Power of Attorney, which allows the appointment a person of preference to handle your finances in the event you become incapacitated.

Living Trust

  • Probate court does not oversee a Living Trust.
  • Does Not allow you to appoint a guardian for a minor.
  • Private and therefore does not become public knowledge.
  • Avoids conservatorship. The successor trustee that you appoint will be responsible for transferring your property.

Will vs Living Will

A Living Will is directed towards your health care preferences if and when you become mentally incapacitated. It allows you to appoint a Health Care Proxy who will then carry out your health care preferences. A last will and testament is legally enforced after your death which deals with the transfer of your assets and personal property.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it necessary to have a will?

When a person dies without a last will and testament, they leave their assets in the hands of the court system. Because of this, disputes and confusion can easily arise between family members. Every adult benefits from having a will, especially those that have assets of value.

Which state governs my will?

In whichever state the testator resides is the state that governs the Will, but for those that live in multiple states, the presiding state would be considered the one in which the testator pays personal income tax.

Which types of personal property can I include?

Personal property is any type of possession that has value (Important: does not include cash). Personal property includes vehicles, jewelry, collectibles, furniture, etc. A testator may choose to give all of their personal property to one person or proportionately allocate personal property to multiple beneficiaries.

What happens if a beneficiary dies?

If the primary beneficiary dies before the testator, that deceased person can be removed from the will. If a second recipient/beneficiary is listed, the property will be distributed to them. In some states that use the Uniform Probate Code, a beneficiary must survive for at least 5 days following a testator’s death in order to inherit property. If there is no alternate beneficiary to inherit the estate upon death, the will would then be subject to the governing state’s “Anti-Lapse” Laws.

Can I appoint someone to take care of my pets?

Yes, in your will, you can select a person to be the caretaker of your pets upon your passing.

Terms to Know

  • Beneficiary – The individual(s) chosen by the testator that are to be given property.
  • Executor – The person chosen to make sure that the testator’s property is allocated correctly when the testator passes — essentially, the executor manages the testator’s accounts.
  • Intestate – To die without a will.
  • Probate – Court proceedings that oversee the distribution of the testator’s property.
  • Property – Any real (like a home or physical structure) or personal (money, items of value) property that is to be given to beneficiaries.
  • Testator – The testator is the person creating the will and leaving their property to be divided as they see fit.

Intestate (No Will After Death) – What Happens?

Dying intestate means that an individual passed away without a will. In this case, the court would determine how assets are handled and who is awarded real and personal property. Court decisions can take many months.

If there is no will that was recorded by the individual that has died and the estate is valued under a certain amount (governed by state limits), the property may be distributed through a Small Estate Affidavit.

Estate Planning Checklist

Use this checklist as a guide to ensure an individual’s estate is complete to the fullest extent by law, which includes incorporating end-of-life decisions. Power of attorney forms, for example, allow individuals to choose a representative to make financial and medical decisions on their behalf if they aren’t able to do it themselves.

In addition, a living will allows a person to make decisions about their medical treatment requests that precede a potential incapacitating event, like donating organs in the event of death, receiving pain medication or accepting or rejecting resuscitation measures.