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Last Will & Testament

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What Is a Will?
A Will, also known as a last will and testament, is a written document that tells the court how to divide your property at the time of your death. When applicable, it can also tell the court who should be the guardian of your minor children. Wills are filed with the court at the time of death, and the court oversees the administration of the Will through a process known as probate.

What is a Living Will?
A Living Will informs others of your preferred medical treatment should you become permanently unconscious, terminally ill, or otherwise unable to make or communicate decisions regarding treatment. Almost all states have instituted Living Will laws to protect a patient's right to refuse medical treatment. Even if you receive medical care in a state without Living Will laws, this document is useful to a court trying to decide what an unconscious patient would want. In conjunction with other estate planning tools, it can bring peace of mind and security while avoiding unnecessary expense and delay in the event of future incapacity.

Does Everyone Need a Will?
If you do not plan your estate, you will leave what is legally known as an “intestate estate,” one in which the deceased has left no instructions. As a result, the government will make its own plan regarding the disposition of your assets and the future of your minor children. You can prevent this unfortunate circumstance by leaving written instructions detailing your wishes. One way of doing this is by writing a Will.

Should You Write Your Own Will?
Although a do-it-yourself Will can be considered binding, it is not the ideal approach to estate planning. Proper will preparation requires the expert counsel of a lawyer experienced in writing Wills. An attorney seasoned in estate planning can help you decide how to best divide your assets and avoid unnecessary taxes. An estate planning attorney can also help you designate the executor of a Will.

Contesting a Will
An objection to a Will, also known as a “Will contest” is a fairly common occurrence during the probate proceedings and can be incredibly costly to litigate. In order to contest a Will, one has to have legal “standing” to raise objections. This usually occurs when, for example, children are to receive disproportionate shares under the Will, or when distribution schemes change from a prior Will to a later Will. In addition to disputes over the tangible distributions, Will contests can be a quarrel over the person designated to serve as the executor of a Will.

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