Although many people assume that a simple will and testament that indicates an individual’s intentions regarding distribution of one’s legacy to family members, friends, and charities is the only type of will, the term relates to a wide range of documents. The various types of wills serve distinct and often very different objectives. Our Wichita Estate Planning Attorneys at the Weber Law Office have provided an overview of the different types of wills and their functions. This overview provides a general discussion of the features and functions of the will reviewed. However, the specific requirements and details of these documents might vary depending on state law, so you should seek legal advice if you have questions about any of these types of wills. Further, some of these types of wills are not recognized in all states.
Last Will and Testament
This is the type of will that people typically refer to when using the generic term “will.” The primary function of this type of will is to specify the disposition of the assets in your estate amongst your loved ones. The person who creates a last will and testament (also called a “simple will”) also designates the person who will serve as the executor of the estate and oversee the probate process. The responsibility of the executor is to gather the assets of the estate, conduct an inventory of the assets, determine the value of the assets, settle estate liabilities, and distribute the residual assets to the beneficiaries designated under the will. Parents also can use a will to designate potential guardians for their children in the event of their death.
A living will has absolutely nothing to do with the disposition of a person’s financial legacy. The function of a living will is to indicate advance directives for medical providers regarding your preferences in terms of extraordinary medical measures if you are incapacitated. If you suffer a catastrophic brain injury or advanced terminal cancer and lack the ability to indicate your desire with respect to tubal nutrition/hydration, hospice care, resuscitation, artificial respiration or other extraordinary life sustaining measures, a living will can protect your religious, ethical and personal values and/or personal dignity. Since the legal requirements imposed vary by state, you should seek legal advice promptly.
While this type of will is used to pass the maker’s assets to his or her beneficiaries like a simple will, this form of will is characterized by the fact the document is handwritten. The formal requirements associated with executing this type of will are typically less onerous because the fact that the document is handwritten provides evidence that the document is authentic and not the product of forgery or fraud. Kansas is one of approximately 16 states that do not recognize holographic wills.
This is an estate planning design involving married couples that entails creating symmetric wills in which each spouse leaves their assets to the other spouse. The wills also designate the same recipients of assets in both documents if they die at the same time. In the event one of the spouses pre-deceases the other, the surviving spouse has the right to change beneficiaries. The following are two types of reciprocal wills:
- Joint Will: This term refers to an arrangement nearly identical in design and purpose to reciprocal wills except that a single will is used and executed by both spouses. A key difference with this type of will is that the beneficiaries cannot be changed by a surviving spouse.
- Mutual Will: This is a hybrid form of will that combines features of a joint will and a reciprocal will. While both spouses execute a separate will like with a reciprocal will, the surviving spouse cannot change the beneficiaries named in the wills.
If you need legal assistance in probating, contesting or drafting a will, we welcome the opportunity to talk to you and answer your questions. We invite you to call the Kansas Estate Planning Lawyer at the Weber Law Office at (316) 265-7802 or to submit an inquiry form through this website to schedule your initial consultation.