Many people understand the concept of a will, but did you know that there are several types of wills? Below is a breakdown of the different types of wills so that you can make the best selection for yourself and your family.
Formal Will - A formal will is a typed or written document that is signed by the person who wrote it and witnessed by two disinterested individuals.
Simple Will - A simple will is just as it sounds, simple. It is a will without any complicated clauses, conditions, or stipulations. Often the author of a simple will leaves all of his or her assets to a surviving spouse or the surviving children. Simple wills are useful for many people, but married couples with substantial estates should not utilize simple wills.
Statutory Will – A statutory will is a will that that is completed by filling out a form prescribed by statute. An individual who is age 18 or older who has the mental capacity to create a will may fill out this form. A statutory will has no effect on jointly held assets, retirement plan benefits, or on life insurance if you have a named beneficiary who survives you. A statutory will is a simple fill-in-the-blank will, but it is still a legally binding document. If there is anything you do not understand about it, you should ask an attorney to explain it to you before using it.
Living Will – A living will is a document that lists your wishes for your end-of-life care decisions if you are not able to speak for yourself. This type of will lets you maintain control even if you’re seriously ill or injured. A living will is not a substitute for a will that sets forth your wishes as to distribution of your property – it only deals with end-of-life care decisions, including choosing to receive no treatment or to discontinue treatment. Although a good option for some people, many others prefer utilizing a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare, which authorizes a person you name to act on your behalf should you become incapacitated. These documents are different though, and you should consult with your estate planning attorney to determine which is best for you.
Holographic Will – This type of will is one where the material parts of it are completed in the maker’s handwriting and signed. It must be dated, but does not have to be witnessed to be legally valid. Singer Aretha Franklin apparently authored three holographic wills before her death in 2018. This type of will is valid in Michigan, but most estate planning attorneys recommend avoiding holographic wills. Franklin’s handwritten wills have left her family battling in court over her sizeable estate.
Joint and Reciprocal Wills -
A joint will is a single document created by two people who wish to have the same terms and who wish that the document remain unchanged after the other person’s death. A couple, usually a husband and wife, declare that if one spouse dies, the other inherits the entire estate. A joint will is a single document that two people sign. Joint wills are not recommended by attorneys, because family circumstances sometimes change after the death of one of the parties.
Joint wills have caused problems for surviving spouses who have remarried and families who may become left out of the inheritance.
Reciprocal wills, where the two parties’ estate plan documents are separate but mirror one another, are a better option in this case because these wills are created as separate documents, which may be later amended.
Because reciprocal wills are two different wills, part of the estate can go to another person besides the surviving spouse. The other advantage of this type of will is the flexibility to change it, which is important if the couple divorces.
What will is best for your situation?
Selecting which type of will is best for you depends on your circumstances, including the size of your estate, your family situation, whether you own a business and other factors. The estate planning attorneys at O’Reilly Rancilio are available to help you select and draft a will that is personalized for you and your family. For information, please visit our website or call 586-726-1000.