YOU DIE without a will, state law determines how your estate
is shared among heirsyou have no say about the relative
Typically, people die without a will because they think
it is difficult to do.
But a will is a simple legal document that you can do yourself,
as long as you include certain basics.
It is customary to revoke any previous wills or codicils
(amendments), and to begin with a full statement of your
name and address in the territory where you live, as well
as a declaration that you are of sound mind.
This is followed by a list of your assets and delegation
of ownership to named heirs.
You may create joint ownership with tenancy in common or
tenancy with right of survivorship.
You may even allocate an asset for use of an heir for a
specific period of time, or for their use for life, after
which such an asset reverts to your estate.
If you have heirs who are below the legal age, you will
need to appoint legal guardians to look after their interests,
and collect monies allocated to such minors.
If you have heirs who can die before you do, you will need
to decide whether you want that heirs share to pass
to his estate, or whether that share returns to your estate.
If you make a division among grandchildren, would one of
your children derive a greater benefit because he/she has
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At the end of the body of the will, it is customary to appoint
an executor, and to make provision for his resignation and
It is also customary to appoint the executor to pay all
debts, taxes, etc and to sell, invest and maintain the assets
of the estate in good repair.
It is also necessary to allocate any remainder
in the estate to someone. A remainder usually refers to
unknown assets, or forgotten assets or income to the estate,
as well as any other assets that may pass to the estate
of the deceased in the future.
Sometimes people forget a bank account or a safety deposit
box, or stocks and shares they hold. It may take years before
such facts are uncovered, and the estate may have been deemed
settled. Such a discovery can reopen the estate.
Two witnesses are necessary on the day you date and sign
your will. The witnesses have no legal right to read your
Their purpose is to avow they saw you sign the document,
and you were of sound mind and not under duress when you
Their signatures must be placed after your signature and
next to the aforementioned statement of declaration of sound
Their addresses must be recorded on the document, as well
as the date.
In addition, they must not be named as heirs in the will.
Your signature should be as close as possible to the last
full stop in your complete bequests.
It is also now fashionable to leave instructions with respect
to medical care or the cessation of such regimen, in the
event of comatose or brain dead conditions.
While no one knows the time or place of death, we can put
things in place for a long and fruitful life.