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Types of Wills

Virtually all people need wills. Wills are legal tools that detail how to distribute estate property after the testator dies. Any party with a bank account, insurance policy, retirement account, car, home or minor children needs a will because he has an estate. The estate need not be large to warrant a will.

There are multiple types of wills. Each type has legal requirements that must be satisfied for the will to be legally binding. It is not necessary to have a lawyer prepare a will. However, given the complexity of trusts and estates laws, the state-specific nature of those laws, and the challenging nature of some family situations and financial circumstances, consultation with a trusts and estates attorney is advisable.

Types of Wills

The types of wills that exist include:

  1. Simple will - This provides for distribution of estate assets in an uncomplicated scenario. This type is usually sufficient for most people who have average-size estates with no complexities in assets, financial portfolio or family situation.
  2. Holographic will - This is a handwritten will prepared in the testator's own handwriting entirely. In most states, witnesses are necessary and they must sign the will. However, in some states, there is no witness requirement. Approximately 20 U.S. states recognize handwritten wills.
  3. Statutory will - This is a form-driven will that is prepared through the use of blanks or boxes. It is easy and cheap to prepare. This will is limited in its use, and application and should not be utilized in situations where there are any complexities. A testator should check his state's laws prior to preparing a statutory will because only a few U.S. states recognize statutory wills.
  4. Testamentary trust will - This will creates one or more trusts. The purpose of those trusts is to distribute some or all of the testator's estate when she dies.
  5. Pour-over will - This will "pours over" property of the testator into a trust upon his death. The property distributed through the will must be handled by the probate process prior to be included in the trust.
  6. Oral will - These are nuncupative wills. Only a few states will permit this type of spoken will, as opposed to a written will. These oral wills are usually recognized only in limited circumstances, such as emergency situations.
  7. Living will - This will is not used to distribute estate property after death, and it is unlike any type of will. Instead, it allows you to specify what medical treatment you want/do not want when you cannot communicate those desires. It is also called an advanced medical directive.