Many people are overwhelmed when creating an estate plan because the process may seem too complicated. There are multiple legal options and steps that go into establishing an estate plan, which is why many put off estate planning until it is too late. One of the most confusing aspects of estate planning is understanding the different types of Last Will and Testaments (wills). Each type of will serves a different purpose and has unique legal requirements that must be satisfied. Anyone who considers setting up an estate plan needs to consider the type of will that best suits them. At Johnson Law Group, our estate planning attorneys help individuals create an estate plan tailored to their wishes, needs, and goals. We focus on helping people achieve peace of mind and security. Find answers to your questions by calling our experienced legal team today at (720) 463-4333.
Understanding the different types of wills can be confusing because there are so many of them, and each serves a unique purpose. If a person dies without a will, their property will be distributed to their heirs according to intestacy laws in their state, according to the American Bar Association (ABA). Below is the list of the most common kinds of wills that people often use as part of their estate plans.
A Simple Will is a basic will that outlines who has the legal right to receive the Testator’s assets after their death. The Testator is the person who writes the legal document and has the estate. With a Simple Will, the Testator can designate guardians for their minor children, appoint an executor of their estate to handle the administration after their passing, and stipulate how they want their assets to be distributed to beneficiaries.
Also known as an advance directive, a Living Will spells out the Testator’s wishes for medical treatments and procedures they do and do not want to undergo in the future. A Living Will communicates a person’s wishes regarding medical care when they are no longer able to make decisions on their own due to incapacity. This type of will eases the burden on family members if they ever need to make difficult decisions regarding their loved one’s medical care. As its name implies, a Living Will is a will for when the Testator is living. It becomes ineffective once the Testator dies.
This type of will is also referred to as a Will Trust. Essentially, this type of legal estate planning document is a trust written to accompany a will. A Testamentary Trust Will distributes the Testator’s assets (all of them or a portion of them) after their death. However, the trust is not created until after the death. In fact, a person can create multiple testamentary trusts within their will. A major drawback of a Testamentary Trust Will is that it will go through the probate process after the Testator’s death because, unlike other trusts, it is written inside a will.
A Pour-Over Will is used along with a revocable living trust. This type of will requires any assets that the Testator did not include in their living trust to “pour over” or transfer into the trust upon the Testator’s death. However, any assets that were not named in the trust will go through probate before being transferred into the trust. The probate process can be time-consuming, costly, and complicated, which is why surviving family members often hire attorneys to help them with the process. Our experienced estate planning attorneys at Johnson Law Group help families in Colorado navigate the legal intricacies of probate law.
Unlike other types of wills, a Joint Will is a legal document for two people who want to leave their property to each other. It is a single document that partners make and sign together. A Joint Will combines the wishes of both partners into one document that cannot be changed without permission of one another. Once the first partner dies, a Joint Will automatically becomes irrevocable. It means that the surviving partner cannot change the terms of the document.
A Mirror Will may seem similar to a Joint Will, but these two types of wills have several differences. Mirror wills are two identical documents executed and signed by married spouses or domestic partners. As its name implies, a Mirror Will mirrors the provisions and contents of another will. With this type of will, one spouse or partner leaves their estate to the other in the event of their death. Two identical wills also name the same beneficiaries.
A Deathbed Will may not be as valid as other wills. As its name implies, this type of will is created and executed when the Testator believes they are nearing their death. A Deathbed Will may not satisfy the legal requirements of a valid will. When determining the validity of a Deathbed Will, a court will look closely at the circumstances in which the document was created. Under Colorado law, a will must be either acknowledged by the Testator before a notary public or signed in the presence of two individuals (Colorado Revised Statutes § 15-11-502).
A Holographic Will is a handwritten document signed by the Testator. This type of will is not valid in all states. However, Colorado law recognizes Holographic Wills as valid as long as they meet specific requirements.
Since there are many types of wills to choose from, many people do not understand which kind of will is right for their particular situation. At Johnson Law Group, we review each client’s situation to help them understand which type of will is right for their specific circumstances. Each client has different wishes and objectives, which is why our job is to help them understand their options. Consider scheduling a case review with our estate planning attorneys by calling (720) 463-4333. Alternatively, you can send us a text message at (720) 730-4558.