What Are All the Types of Wills One Can Have?

a document with the title last will and testament

A will is a document that you create that dictates how you want your estate to be distributed after you die. It’s important to have so that your finances and assets can be used to take care of those you leave behind as soon as possible. If you don’t, your assets go into intestate, where the local state court divides your assets by their own system. They can also stand to be taxed more than they would if you had a proper will in place. But making a will isn’t as simple as writing to who and where you want your assets to go. There are four types of wills to choose from to best plan the transfer of your estate.

Most types of wills can do and contain different things, except for holographic and oral wills. Holographic wills are handwritten wills, and oral wills are ones spoken and recorded orally. These pertain to the will’s format, but have no bearing on what they can and can’t contain. We recommend typed, formally-created wills with a proper attorney.

Even if you created a holographic or oral will already in another state, neither format is accepted in Pennsylvania. You should speak to a local lawyer about a formal will if you expect to live in Pennsylvania or own property here that needs to be transferred.

What Are the Four Types of Wills?

Currently, four types of wills meet the needs of people in Pennsylvania. They each deal with a different situation to meet the needs of a person’s asset. This can be anything from working in tandem with a trust to being a will for two or more people.

Simple Will

This is the most basic type of will that most people will use. In this type of will, you decide all of the important factors, like who will receive your assets, how much of each asset, and who will be the guardian(s) for your child(ren) under 18.

This is the most barebones will. Some of your assets will not need to be split if you have one person to leave it to. You will not need to decide on a guardian for your child if they are already 18, have another living parent, or you have no children.

Testamentary Trust Will

This type of will is for anyone who has a trust to pair with their will. If you have assets that you want to go to a charitable organization or want to pass to someone after a specified event or period of time, you would make a trust.

You can name the executor and trustee of the trust in this kind of will. The executor will make sure that instructions are followed until the trustee is able to handle the assets you leave them.

Joint Will

A joint will is as it sounds, one created and signed by two or more people. It works as a separate will for you and anyone else signing with you, but from one document.

This is usually made between two spouses who share assets. It details how they want their shared assets to pass, keeping their separate deaths from being a legal hassle for those inheriting their assets.

At the same time, if wording and rules are decided carefully, the spouse who lives longer may find themselves incredibly inconvenienced by the joint will. Joint wills decide an executor, beneficiaries, and other provisions permanently. Nothing can be changed after it’s signed, even if it fails to meet the needs of the surviving spouse.

Living Will

This type of will has the distinct feature of being the only one with nothing to do with distributing your assets upon your death. This is to instruct your loved ones and medical caregivers about what to do if you become incapacitated.

If you are in an accident or have a medical episode that leaves you in a comatose or unresponsive state, you can no longer make decisions for yourself. In a living will, you can either select someone to make decisions for you on your behalf, or you can give instructions on what they should do with you. Should you not want to be kept alive on life support, for example, you can detail that.

This type of will can legally co-exist alongside any of the other types of wills.

Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano Can Help You Understand Which Types of Wills Are Right For You

This is not only your future that you’re putting in writing but also that of those you care about. It’s important to have a will, but to write a will correctly, in a way that best suits your loved ones. If you need help understanding which type of will is best for you, contact Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano. Our Pennsylvania wills and estate planning attorneys can help.

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