Wills and trusts are two areas of the law, called probate law, that are extremely important, especially if there is a great deal of money and property involved. At the same time, if the family in question has a great deal of individuals involved as well, this makes a will and trust as important, probably more so than the money and the property. What is having to be looked at in the way of wills and trusts is the proper working of the documentation, what your state laws say about each and to keep both up-to-date from the time that the original of each is written. Before going into both the will and the estate, it is important to state this: this writer is not an attorney and does not practice law. To write on this subject is only from what he learned during his paralegal course that he took a couple of years ago and what he learned working as a paralegal for law firms. So, with this said, it is extremely important that when either type of document is ready to be prepared please make sure that you consult with an attorney so that nothing is left undone.
The information you will gain here is from a layman, and hopefully, you will gain some knowledge. What this writer would like to do is to start with a brief story about my father and his preparation of a will when he was preparing to go under the knife. He was scheduled to go for triple by-pass surgery, so he asked me the day before and before he was given any kind of “happy” medicine to make him comfortable, to get a pen and paper and he wanted to write his will in case anything went wrong. This writer did what he asked and let him write away. He then asked this writer to hold on to the will and to not let anyone see it. He did have two people not associated with the family sign the written will, making it legal. However, it is important to check with your individual state on laws regarding hand written wills. When this writer’s father walked out of the hospital two weeks after his surgery, he asked for the will and he received it and tore it up. Never again did he write a will.
What was done eventually, was a living will was established for this writer’s father. meaning that when his time approached, he was not to be placed on any life support. He asked to go quietly and without any assistance. This was done in 1996 and there was no question as to what was to be done. He asked for a DNR, Do Not Resuscitate and even though this was hard, it was his wish, so this is something that was adhered to.
There are many types of wills and there are many types of laws relating to wills. What is important as stated earlier is to please make sure that you are working with an attorney. Of course, the attorney will most likely be working with an assigned paralegal and this is the individual who you will be communicating with throughout the life of your legal documents. It is important that you have those named to receive general property(homes, furniture, jewelry, etc.) and/or monetary items (cash, life insurance, 401K, etc.) properly. Most of the time, especially with life insurance and 401K’s and stocks, the person receiving these will have to be named as beneficiary through the administrator of these funds. This is the way it is with my wife and my mother.
When it comes to wills, remember this: the person preparing the will must be of sound mind and body and must have two signatures from witnesses who are not named to receive anything from the will. Without these two requirements, most likely the will can get tied up for years in Probate Court and this can get ugly, especially when it comes to family matters.
This writer will not get to much into the trust side of the law because this is very tricky and very lengthy. What he will say is this: this writer is the executor of his parents estate and it is up to him to distribute any property or any money to those family members that the parent wants him to. This is kind of similar to the will, but it is actually different. What is probably the smartest thing to do is to name someone a trustee of the trust, but not necessarily the attorney who is assisting or anyone in the firm. A friend who is willing to take on the role of trustee is probably the best bet.
Finally, remember always consult an attorney if you decide to prepare a will and a trust on your own. Have him or her review the documents and if possible, have them maintain the documents in a safe place, say a safe. Never go on the assumption that your documents are correct without having the attorney review them.