What is a Last Will and Testament?
A will (also known as a last will and testament) is a document that is signed by a testator that maps out (in writing) the final wishes for a person after they decease. This includes burial instructions, asset distribution and who will represent their estate.
For families dealing with immense emotional grievance after a passing of a loved one, having a carefully crafted will that is fully excepted by the Washington DC district laws, can provide a great deal of organization and comfort. When a DC will is properly drafted it makes the probate process much more efficient. Creating an all-inclusive estate plan (including the writing of a will) is the only way to truly protect your loved ones, to make sure your final wishes are carried out.
What if I don’t have a will?
This is referred to as “intestacy” when a person dies without having a valid will or binding declaration. When a resident of Washington DC deceases without having a suitable will in place, the District’s default law will step in to determine who the representative of the estate will be and how the assets will be distributed. Probate laws will vary from state to state and the same holds true for the District of Columbia. Not having a will (that is recognized by DC laws) can be extremely maddening to family members who know what their loved ones plans were for the distribution of their estate. This can cause disputes and lead to great uncertainty there is children or a spouse involved.
Can I create my own will?
Over the years we have seen short handwritten wills by a testator that are also know as holygraphic wills. These tend to be written by a testator in emergency situations. There are many jurisdictions that will NOT accept this type of will. That means the default laws will take effect even if they go against the wishes of the deceased. If this type of will is accept outright (and many times they are not) there is sure to be court hearings to decide who the estate representative is and how the assets will be distributed.
When should I create a will?
There is no exact time that a person should create a will in Washington DC. Typical our clients at the Law Offices of Paul Hunt seek our Probate Law services at pivotal milestones in there life such as purchasing their first home, getting married, having a child or even as late as retirement. It’s also important to note that regardless of how much wealth you have acquired you should have a basic will in place sooner than later. Just to reiterate, there is not a certain amount of assets that you need to accumulate to start thinking about your estate plan.
What is involved in drafting a Last Will and Testament?
Solidifying your final wishes in the form of a will is easy when working with the Law Offices of Paul Hunt. As an expert in probate law, Paul Hunt will make sure you have an all-inclusive estate plan that will put your mind at ease.
Here are some of the key points on our probate lawyer checklist when creating a will.
• Carefully outline why and how we will prepare your last will and testament and/or revocable living trust
• Assign a power of attorney and an advanced medical directive such as planning for unforeseen events like incapacity
• Review recipient designations on retirement accounts and insurance policies to incorporate into the overall estate plan
• Secure login credentials for financial advisors, certified public accountants and attorneys
• Institute a trust that will support surviving family members such as a spouse and children
We will review and thoroughly explain to new clients in an easy to understand manner, all the options that are available to make sure your final wishes have the final say in the Washington DC probate process.
The creation of a will usually starts with a role of acknowledgement, which means a will must recite that this is intended to be the last will and testament. This often happens at the very beginning of the will and/or you will see this in the attestation clause.
The attestation clause is also where you will have two independent witness (of legal age) sign to make this agreement binding. One thing to note is that witnesses cannot be a part of the will. The witnesses also need to be very familiar with the testator and have and be extremely knowledgeable of the family and the estate. Also, one of the most important role of a will witness is to prove competency of the testator. The binding signatures of the witness, certifies that the testator is acting on his or her own free will in what’s know as testamentary capacity. In Washington DC, there are test that an attorney will perform to conclude the capacity of the testator. Finally, both witnesses will watch the testator sign the will. If he or she is unable to sign the document than it will no be a binding agreement in the District of Columbia.
If you have any questions or are looking for guidance in creating a last will to protect your family, send us a message or call us at (202) 463-1965.