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WILLS:

Assist individuals to draft a will.

  • Each state has statutes which establish the requirements for a valid will. Most states require that a will be written or typed, signed by the testator, and attested by two or three witnesses.
  • Generally, execution of a valid will requires that the testator be a minimum age and possess testamentary capacity. In most states, the minimum age is eighteen. The testator also must be of sound mind at the time the will is executed. Sound mind requires that the testator:
  1. Know that he or she is executing a will.
  2. Know the general nature and extent of his or her property.
  3. Know his descendants or other relatives that would ordinarily be expected to share in the estate.
  • The intention of the decedent as expressed in the will is to be given effect by the courts, unless contrary to law or public policy. Will takes effect at the testator’s death.

ACT AS EXECUTOR OR ADMINISTRATOR FOR PROBATING WILLS:

  • Assist beneficiaries and/or heirs of a decedent by acting as the executor or administrator of a will either by legal or testamentary proceeding.
    • Probate is the legal process by which a person’s final debts are settled and legal title to property is passed from the deceased to his beneficiaries and heirs.
  • The first step is for the person named in a will as executor to file papers in the local probate court.
    • The executor proves the validity of the will and presents the court with lists of the decedent’s property, debts, and who is to inherit what remains. Then, relatives and creditors must be notified of the proceedings.
    • The executor must find, secure, and manage the decedent’s assets during the probate process, which commonly takes a few months to a year.
    • The court grants the executor permission to pay the decedent’s debts and taxes and divide the rest among the people or organizations named in the will.
  • If there is not any will (a person dies intestate), or the will fails to name an executor, the probate court names an administrator (legal probate).
    • The distribution of estates of intestate decedents is a matter for state regulation. The property is distributed according to state law.

The cost of administering an estate may be significantly greater when there is no will.

Wills

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