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Importance of Writing a Will

The Importance of Writing a Will

by
Gary D. Rappard
Attorney at Law

A will is a legal paper that describes who receives your probate property after your death.  A will is typically prepared by a lawyer, and is signed by you in front of at least two appropriate witnesses and a notary public.  You should be at least 18 years old and of sound mind to sign your will.  A will directs how your probate property will be distributed upon your death.  Your probate property does not normally include property owned in joint tenancy with right of survivorship, nor “payable on death” accounts with banks and other financial institutions, nor life insurance proceeds.  Property owned in joint tenancy with right of survivorship, and “payable on death” accounts, normally passes outside of probate at your death to the surviving joint tenants and payable on death beneficiaries.  Life insurance proceeds normally pass outside of probate at your death, and are distributed to the beneficiaries listed in the life insurance policy.  Property owned by a trust normally passes outside of probate at your death, and is handled by the trustee.

Some people think that they don’t need a will if their property is owned in joint tenancy with right of survivorship, or owned in “payable on death” accounts.  However, you should also have a will in case the joint tenancy property or payable on death accounts are later determined to be improperly titled, and therefore subject to probate.

If you have a properly drafted will, you can give your probate property to the persons and in the amounts that you choose.  However, there are some restrictions.  Your spouse may ask the probate court for more of your probate property, if your will has directed that less of your probate property be distributed to the spouse than the law provides for.  In some states you may not exclude your spouse from your will without his or her consent.

If you don’t have a will, your probate property may be distributed according to your state’s laws of intestate succession.  Those laws may direct that your probate property be distributed to certain close relatives and sometimes to more distant relatives.  The specific relatives and the percentage of your probate property that goes to each relative, may not be the same as you would choose if you had a will.  If no relatives are found, which does not happen often, then your probate property may go to the state.

A will can direct that some of your probate property be distributed to your favorite charity.  A will can name an executor to handle your probate property after your death.  The probate court usually appoints the executor that you requested, unless there is some compelling reason not to do so.

A will may save some of the costs of processing your probate property through the probate court.  You may save some money if the will says that you are waiving the court’s usual requirement that the executor of your probate estate post a bond.  You may also save some money if the will says that you are asking for independent administration of the probate property.  This independent administration reduces, but does not eliminate, the amount of court paperwork and expense for the executor and the probate estate attorney.  Your will may also specify a guardian for your minor children.  If your will includes a testamentary trust including estate tax planning, you may save on death taxes.

If you have a will, you can change it.  When you want to make a change to your will, you should contact your lawyer.  Your lawyer can prepare an amendment to the will called a codicil.  Some wills have been amended many times.  If the amendments are too extensive or too numerous, your lawyer may recommend that you prepare a newer will, and destroy the old will.  You should consult with your lawyer about whether changes to your will are necessary if you have a new marriage, divorce, or a death in your immediate family.  You should consult with your lawyer if your probate property and assets change, or if you move to another state.


 

The following form is shown here to assist you in conveying your wishes to your family regarding your burial and memorial service.  There is also a section regarding personal information, that can assist you in providing information for writing an obituary.INSTRUCTIONS REGARDING MY BURIAL AND MEMORIAL SERVICEName ________________________________________________________________________
(first)                                  (middle)                                     (last)For my family: I leave this for your decision. I know that you will do what is best in all ways and I hope that you will always feel free to make any changes you think best.ARRANGEMENTS: I would suggest the following funeral arrangements:_____ Burial with graveside service only.
_____ Burial with memorial service preceding and graveside service following.
_____ Burial with graveside service before / memorial service after.
_____ Immediate burial with private graveside services / memorial service later.
_____ Immediate cremation with memorial and interment services later.
_____ Immediate cremation with memorial service only.
_____ Cremation after memorial service with private internment.
_____ Cremation after private services / later memorial service.
_____ I prefer to be buried at __________________________________________ Cemetery.
_____ I have a burial plot at ____________________________________________Cemetery.
_____ Other: ________________________________________________________________If I have suggested cremation, I would prefer the ashes be disposed of in the following manner:
_____________________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________________
I would suggest using the following funeral director:
_____________________________________________________________________________Memorials should be made to: ____________________________________________________

MEMORIAL SERVICE:

I would suggest the memorial service be held at:
_____________________________________________________________________________

Favorite Hymns: _______________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________________
Favorite Scripture Passages:
_____________________________________________________________________________
Favorite Flower: _______________________________________________________________
OTHER REQUESTS: _____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________________
PERSONAL INFORMATION

Name ________________________________________________________________________
(first)                             (middle)                                      (last)

For my family and friends: In the event of my death, please use the following information to help you through that difficult time.

NAME: _______________________________________________________________________
(first)                             (middle)                    (last)                 (maiden)

MY BIRTHPLACE: ____________________________________________________________
(town)                           (county)                                      (state)
PARENTS: (Father) ____________________________________________________________
(Mother) ____________________________________________________________
SIBLINGS: (also indicate if any siblings are deceased)

Name                            Current Town                                Spouse
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________

EDUCATION:
Elementary School(s) ___________________________________________________________
High School(s) _________________________________________________________________
Year of High School Graduation __________________
College/Vocational School(s) _____________________________________________________
Degree(s) Completed: ___________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
(school)                                      (degree)                        (year)

VOCATIONAL HISTORY: (list current occupation first)
Job                      Employer                             Year Begun                 Year Ended
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________

AFFILIATIONS AND CLUBS: List current church, club, volunteer organization, etc; also include offices held and years of office, if possible.)
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
HOBBIES:
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________

SIGNIFICANT ACCOMPLISHMENTS: (Include awards received)
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________

 

 


The information in this article is specific to the laws of the state of Kansas.  For other states, please consult with an attorney licensed to practice law in that other state.

Disclaimer

The use of this report or calling Gary D. Rappard’s office to request a copy of this report does not create an attorney-client relationship between the user and Gary D. Rappard or his Law Firm. The information contained herein is general in nature and is not intended to indicate what the results will be in your Kansas or Missouri case. Any examples discussed in this report are not a guarantee of your outcome if we represent you. All cases are unique, and favorable factors in one case or one jurisdiction may not apply or be available in another case or jurisdiction. The contents of this report do not constitute legal advice. The information provided herein cannot substitute for consulting with an attorney who is knowledgeable and proficient in the law. The description and interpretation of the laws and procedures are subject to change. The facts of your case may require a different analysis of the law. You should consult with Mr. Rappard before reaching conclusions so that your unique facts can be applied to the law in effect at the time. Although we will make every attempt to keep the information in this report current, we do not promise or guarantee that the information is correct, complete, or up-to-date. Laws of states other than Missouri or Kansas may be stricter or different than the state laws described herein. Many laws are state-specific. Gary D. Rappard only practices in the states of Kansas and Missouri. You should not rely on this information without seeking the advice of a licensed attorney in your state.

Importance of Writing a Will