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Types of Wills

Expressing your wishes

The most common method of dealing with estate planning is to write a will. You can make a simple will in any number of ways, but three types are most well-known:

  1. A statutory will is a fill-in-the-blanks, do-it-yourself will that's legally binding in many states. These are suitable for people with simple assets, and in such cases this type of will can be much cheaper than going through a lawyer. The internet now makes it possible to create a statutory will online. Stationery Store Wills are somewhat similar to standard statutory wills, but they come with no instructions and no legal information. Most often, these raise more questions than they answer.

  1. A lawyer-prepared will is prepared in accordance with state law; and as long as the lawyer is qualified, this type of will is legally binding. A lawyer will also be experienced in handling the issues surrounding a will, and will be able to offer helpful advice and ask pertinent questions.

  2. A handwritten will (also called a holographic will) is legally binding in less than half the states. This is a will completed in your own handwriting, dated and signed. Even within some states where these are considered legal ( California , for example), different jurisdictions may have opposing provisions. If you have the will signed by two witnesses, you may be better off legally. It is best to have a lawyer check over the will to determine whether it conforms to state law. 

A living will is a different type of will altogether. It will usually be entirely separate from your last will and testament, and has nothing to do with estate planning or providing instructions concerning the use of life support. Instead it focuses largely on providing power of attorney for health-related issues.

Other Types of Wills

There are a number of different types of wills besides the traditional:

  1. A Testamentary trust will sets up one or more trusts for any of your estate assets.

  2. A pour-over will is also related to trusts, with the difference being that it involves trusts you had already established before your death.

  3. An oral will (also called a nuncupative will) is a will that is spoken, not written down. These are legally binding in a few states.

  4. A joint will covers any two people (usually a husband and wife). These are often considered inadvisable, especially for large estates.
A video will (videotaped will, filmed will) is not legally binding in any state. However, some legal sources recommend that a video will can be a good supplement to a legal will because it physically demonstrates mental competency, thereby thwarting potential legal challenges.
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