A Last Will & Testament is a legal document that, among other things, names who is living in a Will’s estate and who is the executor of the Will. It also explains who has the authority to make any final decisions on behalf of the decedent, and it gives the trustee the power to administer the estate. In California, a Last Will & Testament must be filed with the county recorder within two days after death. It may be filed by anyone who has been dead for more than six months. However, the person must file the document within two days of death if there are minor children who do not know of their father’s death or if they have a will and trust that name both parents as beneficiaries.
Generally speaking, a Last Will & Testament don’t have to be difficult to prepare. It can be simply typed, printed, or handwritten. It can also be limited to a single agent, such as an agent who represents more than one person. (IRAs). (Most individuals choose to designate a family member as the agent; if this is the case, you need to provide a signed Power of Attorney form to that individual.)
If you choose to have someone other than a close relative execute your Last Will & Testament, then you must fill out a Power of Attorney form indicating who will fill out the document if you die before having the document executed. (The form can also be used for minor children, if necessary.) Once you complete the Power of Attorney form, sign and date it, and give either a duplicate or a single copy of the document to someone you instruct to keep it. You must obtain a court order for this to occur, and any non-executed Will must be countersigned by someone who is legally authorized to act on your behalf.
There are many situations where it might make sense to draft your Last Will & Testament before passing away. For example, if you’re dying because of a debilitating illness that would be lifelong, writing your Last Will & Testament early can be helpful. By including specific medical information, you can specify how much money you’d like your estate to be dispersed to your family, as well as how your debts should be divided. Your Last Will & Testament could also be used if your estate is struggling because of financial hardship.
Drafting your testament is never a bad idea. You should always discuss it thoroughly with your legal advisor, including exactly what it says. He can explain the basic requirements and how it’s usually done. And he can tell you what it suggests the rest of your estate should do – including who gets what after you die.
But if you don’t want to go through the trouble, you can employ a professional law firm to complete your Last Will & Testament on your behalf. This won’t cost you anything, but the firm will charge a small fee for their help. If you live in Massachusetts, there are several firms that specialize in completing Last Will Documents. But be sure to research them carefully. Only choose a firm that’s been recommended by people you trust – and find out how long they’ve been in business.