The definition of a will is an individual's written statement of how he or she wants their property to be distributed upon death. There must be witnesses for the will to be enforceable. Without witnesses, a will is void, and without a will, any desire of distribution is irrelevant as the responsibility passes to the heirs.
So what is a will, and why is it written? In a real estate will, the person who writes it can explain how they want to manage their property and who becomes the next owner of the property after the testator’s demise. Still, there are other mentions in a will that are unrelated to real estate that will be covered shortly.
Defining a will can be linked to someone’s will, desire, and wish. As the official title of a will is “Last will and Testament” it is easy to see how the words “will” and “testament” refer to the testator’s last desire and declaration. Aside from the grammatical forms of the auxiliary verb “will” in present and past, singular and plural all expressing the desire, disposition, requirement, determination, and capacity to do something, another use for the word is to express a wish, desire, and like: “Go where you will!” As for the word “testament”, people don’t only use it as a synonym of “will” when they speak of the legal document, but also as evidence or proof of a fact, event, or quality: “This is testament to the man’s loyalty.”
A will is a document that legally serves as the last desires and declarations of an individual before death. But what can these desires and declarations mention in a will?
As mentioned above, the will can pass ownership of real estate or demand a particular way of handling real estate (i.e., giving the property away to the city to use as an orphanage). But a will is also the legal document that can determine who the legal guardians of a minor could be. In case of an untimely death, the testator can specify in a will who is the person that they want to take care of their children until they become off-age. Lastly, a will can also be used to give money to family, friends, or organizations after the testator’s death. The testators can transfer Investments, prized possessions, collections, bank balances, or other financial assets in a will.
When it comes to life insurance policies, a will can not cover these through instructions. The reason for that is because a life insurance policy already has a beneficiary. Upon the death of the insured, the insurance company pays the policy, and the beneficiaries will receive the proceeds. Investment accounts also have the designation to be transferred upon the death of the investor to a specific individual.
A will can handle both the proceeds of a life insurance policy and investment accounts if the beneficiary of these dies before the insured owner of the arrangements. The policy and account will go to the testator’s estate, and the will has to distribute them according to the terms of the will. If that can not happen for any reason, the policy and account pass to a probate court.
Other assets that the will does not distribute are estates, assets, or other financial or emotional holdings owned by spouses together. Jointly owned properties will belong to the remaining spouse upon the testator’s death. If the testator assigns their spouse less than what the state requires them to (between 30%-50%), then a court has the power to override the will.
A will is not designed for the wealthy. A fortune and ownership of vast properties are not required to make a will, and there are many good reasons for anyone to have a will. From dramatic examples like wanting to give money to an unknown heir to more realistic examples of specifying who gets the wooden chair that the testator loved so much, let’s look at some examples of what a will can do for regular people.