The law of wills, trusts, and estates is based on the fundamental principles of property law. Every citizen in the United States should have a last will and testament, but the majority of people in the United States do not have a valid will at the time of their death. The following will help you understand some of the basic ideas concerning wills, trusts, and estates.
Last Will and Testament
The last will and testament is a legal instrument that must comply with the will formalities to be valid. Every state in the country has its own law describing the will formalities that must be satisfied. In most states, a will must be signed by the testator and also signed by two attesting witnesses.
In some states holographic wills are valid. However, in some states holographic wills are considered invalid. Holographic wills are those which are drafted and signed by hand. Sometimes an individual will draft a will in their own handwriting without realizing that holographic wills are not valid in their jurisdiction.
The purpose of the last will and testament is to describe the intent of the testator. The will may dispose of their property by gifting it to a specific person. A testator may want to leave their estate to a charitable organization and nothing to their heirs. If the will is valid, then it will control. However, many family members initiate will contests if they believe the will is inaccurate or does not describe the testator’s intent.
A trust is a legal instrument composed of three parties: the settlor, the trustee, and the beneficiary. A settlor is the person who creates the trust, and the trustee is the individual or entity that manages the assets inside the trust. The beneficiary is the person who benefits from the trust or who will receive the trust assets upon the settlor’s death.
A trust is beneficial for many reasons. First, they have tax benefits that can help individuals and families save financial resources. Secondly, they are private, and the contents of a person’s estate will not become public record. If an estate is administered through probate, then the contents of the estate will be made public.
Trusts are also able to be modified during the settlor’s lifetime. Assets can be added or removed from the trust corpus. A trustee has a fiduciary duty to manage the trust assets in a reasonable manner. For example, a trustee must invest the trust corpus in securities that are not risky or extremely volatile.
A decedent’s estate is the total assets and liabilities they possess at the time of their death. Estate administration is an important part of this area of law. If a decedent dies without a will or other instrument that disposes of their assets, the estate will go through probate. Probate administration is time consuming and costly. Many individuals and families seek out the assistance of an estate planning attorney because they want to avoid probate.
The estate will need to pay off debts and distribute assets to the decedent’s heirs. A probate administrator or executor is the party who will perform these tasks. It is important for an individual probate administrator to act responsibly when handling the administration of the estate. The laws concerning probate are specific to each jurisdiction, and it is important to consult a knowledgeable estate planning attorney if you have questions regarding these legal issues.
Contact L. Jennings Law Today to Schedule a Free Consultation
Contact L. Jennings Law today if you have questions about any aspect of estate planning. We have years of experience representing clients in cases involving wills, trusts, and estates. Having a knowledgeable estate planning attorney on your side can benefit you and your family members if you have legal issues regarding wills, trusts, and estates.