Everyone knows they should have a will, but the vast majority – about 70% of us – do not. Writing a will is easy and inexpensive, and once you are done you can rest easy knowing your hard earned money and property will be distributed according to your wishes. If you have children, you can leave instructions on who will be left in charge of them if you pass, leaving that decision out of the court's hands. Making a will is easy - you just need to be at least 18 years of age and must be of sound mind when the will is written. To make a will legal it must:
- Expressly state that it is your will.
- Be computer generated or typewritten.
- Be signed and dated.
- Be signed by 2-3 witnesses. These witnesses must be people who don’t stand to inherit anything in the will.
Although you do not need a lawyer to complete a will, it is recommended to do one with a lawyer, as it will avoid any legal headaches after your passing. Once your will is complete, it’s recommended that it is kept somewhere safe and secure outside of your home. If you do your will through a lawyer, most law firms will store it for you free of charge. Many people keep their wills in a safety deposit box at a bank, but this is not recommended as the contents could be sealed at the time of death. The executor of your will should be aware of the location of it.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1. When can I probate the will?
The executor/executrix must wait 10 full days after the date of death to probate the will. However, an application for probate can be made earlier. Contact an attorney or probate court located in the county of the deceased's residence to do so.
2. What will I need to probate the will?
The executor/executrix will need the original will, a certified copy of the death certificate, and addresses of all next of kin & persons named in the will. It is also a good idea to bring a blank check for fees, which will vary by estate.
3. What if the deceased had no will?
If the deceased had no will, the closest living relative of the deceased can apply to the Surrogate for appointment as "administrator" of the estate. The law defines the closest living relative in this following order: spouse, adult children, parents, siblings, nearest next of kin.
4. What if the deceased had no will & few assets?
The assets can usually be transferred to the next of kin without probating the will. Contact an attorney or surrogate court for more information.
5. If the deceased had a joint bank account with a survivor, can that bank account still be used?
Each financial institute has different regulations on this. Some bank accounts are set up with rights of survivorship and others are not. Contact your financial institute to find out more about how they will handle the account.