What Is A Will? in circumstances after a Will has been made, make a Will, the Probate Court will appoint
A Will is a document which provides the such as tax laws, marriage, birth of children someone, whom you may or may not know,
manner in which a person’s property will be or even a substantial change in the nature or to handle the affairs of your estate.
distributed after death. It must meet certain amount of a person’s estate, may raise ques-
formal requirements as provided by the laws tions as to the adequacy of that Will. All chang- Does A Will Avoid Inheritance Taxes And
of each state. es in circumstances require a careful analysis Other Death Taxes?
and reconsideration of all the provisions of a A properly drafted Will may reduce or elim-
Who May Make A Will? Will and may make it advisable to change the inate the amount of taxes that have to be paid.
In Alabama, the maker of the Will must be Will to conform to the new situation. However, it is necessary that everyone be tax
18 years of age or older. The maker of the Will conscious. Many Wills written without con-
must be of sound mind and must be free from What Happens When You Don’t Make A sideration of recent federal tax laws should be
improper inﬂuences. Will? reexamined with reference to tax problems. A
When a person dies without a Will, or dies lawyer thoroughly skilled in these matters can
How Is A Will Made? “intestate”, as the law calls it, the property give you safe advice, for the lawyer must not
1. The Will must not be verbal, but written. of the deceased is distributed according to a only know the law of Wills and property, but
2. The Will must be signed. formula ﬁxed by law. In other words, if you must be familiar with both state and federal
3. The Will must be witnessed in a special do not make a Will, you do not have any say inheritance and estate tax problems.
manner provided by law. as to how your property will be distributed. In
Alabama, for example, if a person dies with- What Happens To Property Held In The
When Should You Make A Will? out a Will, leaving a spouse and two children Names Of Both Husband And Wife?
A Will should be made while the maker is in by that spouse, the spouse will receive the With a few exceptions, property held in
good health, free from emotional stress. A pru- ﬁrst $50,000 in property value, plus one-half the names of both husband and wife does
dent person does not wait for a catastrophe or of the balance of the estate with each of the not automatically pass to the survivor upon
other compelling reason before making a deci- children receiving one-fourth of the balance of the death of one of them. To determine the
sion. If you have children and you and your the estate. If a person dies intestate, his or her ownership of property held in the names of
spouse dies, do you want to name the guard- administrator cannot carry on the business of two or more people, when one of them dies,
ian of your children, or do you want the court the decedent without express approval from you must ﬁrst look at the documents under
to appoint one? If you do not have a Will, the the court. The Authority of the Probate Court which the interest was held to see if they men-
court, by law, will appoint the guardian. to approve the operation of a business is tion “survivorship”. If there is survivorship at
extremely limited. In most instances the busi- the death of one of the owners, the surviving
May A Will Be Changed? ness must be sold. If the children are under owner(s) will acquire the deceased owner’s
A person may change a Will as often as he age 19, the surviving spouse would have to share. It will pass outside of the deceased
or she desires. Changes are made by either ex- be appointed Guardian of the children by the owner’s probate estate and not be subject to
ecuting a new Will which revokes or replaces court and provide a bond. This guardianship any directions made in the deceased owner’s
a prior Will or by executing a legal addition or would remain in effect during the minority of Will. If two or more people own proerty with-
amendment called a “Codicil”. When a Codi- the children. Such proceedings would entail out survivorship and one of them dies, then
cil to a Will is made, just as when the original considerable expense and would create legal the ownership interest of the deceased person
Will was created, certain legal and statutory problems that could have been avoided had becomes the property of his or her estate an is
requirements must be met for the document to the deceased spouse made a Will. distributed according to his or her Will, or by
be effective. If you desire to change your Will, state law if the person dies without a Will.
always consult a lawyer in advance. Who Will Manage Your Estate? It is often difﬁcult and legally complicated to
If you make a Will, you may name the determine whether an item of property, either
How Long Is A Will Good? person whom you want to manage your estate real or personal, is owned with or without
A properly drawn and executed Will is during the period of administration. This survivorship. Whenever you are about to
“good” until it is changed or revoked. Changes person is called the Executor. If you do not obtain property of any kind, including real
estate, bank accounts, titles to automobiles, or parties names in it. Where there is no Will, the
securities of any kind, that you will own with Probate Court must determine who the legal
any other person or even just have their names heirs are and then distribute the estate to them.
on, you should consult a lawyer. Your lawyer
can then advise you of whether it is to your How Large An Estate Is Necessary To
advantage to own the property with or without Justify A Will?
survivorship. Also, when you are having your Any amount of property constitutes an es-
Will prepared, your lawyer should be informed tate. If you own a home or are buying one, you
of the speciﬁc facts regarding any property you have an estate. Personal and family circum-
Last Will &
own with any other person. Thus, the lawyer stances are large factors in determining wheth-
can draft it in such a manner as to comply with er your estate warrants the making of a Will.
your desires upon your death.
Who Should Draft A Will?
Is A Life Insurance Program A Substitute
For A Will?
No. Life insurance is only one kind of prop-
erty which a person may own. If a life insur-
The drafting of a Will is a delicate operation.
It requires professional knowledge which can
only be developed through years of training
and study. Only the practicing lawyer can
ance policy is payable to a named individual, help you avoid the numerous pitfalls and ad-
the Will of the insured has no effect on the vise the course best suited for your individual
proceeds. If the policy is payable to the estate situation.
of the insured, the disposition of the proceeds
may be directed by a Will. The careful person Is A Will Expensive?
will have a lawyer and life insurance counsel- A lawyer charges according to the time
or work together on a life insurance program. spent in preparing the Will. A few hours of
an attorney’s time may mean great savings in
May A Person Dispose Of Property In Any taxes and probate expenses. Usually, the cost
Way Desired By Making A Will? of the surety bond, which may be waived by a
Almost, but not quite. For example, a mar- Will, exceeds the lawyer’s charge for prepar-
ried person cannot completely exclude the ing a Will. Most lawyers will discuss their fees
spouse. There are certain other restrictions in advance.
which a lawyer can explain.
NOTE: This brochure, based upon Alabama law, is is-
Does A Will Increase Probate Expenses? sued to inform, not to advise. It is not intended to apply
No. If there is property to be administered to any speciﬁc problem.
or taxes to be paid, or both, the existence of Published by:
a Will does not increase probate expenses. In Alabama State Bar
fact, it will often cost much less to administer 415 Dexter Avenue
an estate when the decedent leaves a Will. A Montgomery, Alabama 36104
Will may reduce expenses of administration in (334) 269-1515
many ways. For example, the Will can relieve June 2006
the executor from the obligation of making a
bond, ﬁling an inventory and having an ap- Published by
praisal made of all the property.
Where there is a Will, the Probate Court
passes upon it and distributes the estate to the