What Type of Will Do I Need?

Los Angeles estate planning lawyers

Most people have a fairly good idea of what a Will can, and cannot, do for them. What many people do not know, however, is that not all Wills are created equal. In fact, there are several different types of Wills from which to choose when creating your estate plan – and knowing which one is right for you is important. The Los Angeles estate planning lawyers at Collins Law Firm offer a brief explanation of the different types of Wills to help you decide which type of Will is right for you.

  • Simple Will — a Simple Will is what you likely think of when you hear the term “Last Will and Testament.” This is what most people who have relatively modest, uncomplicated assets choose to execute. A Simple Will is appropriate to distribute a modest estate that includes uncomplicated assets. A Simple Will is also used to avoid intestate administration of the estate.
  • Pour-Over Will – you may decide to use a trust agreement to distribute most of your estate assets instead of a Last Will and Testament. If so, you will also need to execute a Pour Over Will. A Pour-Over Will is used to “pour over” the estate assets into the trust at the time of your death. You will establish a testamentary trust that does not take effect until your death at which time the terms of the Pour Over Will dictate that all estate assets be poured over into the trust. The terms of the trust are then used to hold and/or distribute your assets. A Pour-Over Will can even be used in conjunction with a living trust to catch any assets that did not make it into the trust prior to the Settlor’s (your) death.
  • Living Will – the term “Living Will” is a bit deceiving because this is not a document that facilitates the distribution of your estate. Instead, a Living Will is a type of advance directive that allows you to make healthcare decisions in advance in the event you are unable to make them yourself because of your own incapacity at some later point.
  • Holographic Will — A holographic Will is a written document that you signed and dated in your own handwriting, but that is not witnessed. Most states no longer consider a holographic Will to be valid. California will recognize a holographic Will if it is clear that the Testator intended the document to be a Will and the handwriting is verified.
  • Oral or Nuncupative Will — A nuncupative Will is an oral, or spoken, Will that the Testator tells someone (a witness) prior to death. Most states no longer recognize nuncupative Wills, including the State of California.
  • Reciprocal or Joint Will — Spouses who intend to leave all their property to one another often create reciprocal or joint Wills. The surviving Testator will inherit everything upon the death of the first spouse.  The idea is that when the surviving Testator passes away, the remaining estate will be distributed to the couple’s chosen beneficiaries, pursuant to the terms of the Will.  Reciprocal Wills may be changed by the Testator, even after the death of one spouse; however, if you execute a joint Will, the terms cannot be modified or revoked after the death of the first spouse.
  • Conditional or Contingent Will – this is a type of Will that only takes effect upon the occurrence of a condition or event. A common example of a condition is a beneficiary reaching the age of majority. If the condition is not met, the Will does not take effect and the Testator’s estate is probated as an intestate estate if no other valid Will exists.
  • International Will – if you own property in another country, you may need an international Will in order to avoid considerable confusion during the probate of your estate. In 1973, the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT) held a Convention Providing a Uniform Law on the Form of an International Will. Wills that meet the requirements are recognized by participating countries.

Contact Los Angeles Estate Planning Lawyers

For more information, please attend one of FREE webinars. If you have additional questions about which type of Will is right for you, consult with a Los Angeles estate planning attorney. Contact the Collins Law Firm by calling (310) 677-9787 to register for one of our FREE estate planning workshops.

Caprice Collins
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