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Wills & Trusts

Legal Tip - usOWLs.com encourages you to seek professional advice for all questions pertaining to your estate planning. Use of any information from this site is for general purposes only and does not represent estate planning or legal advice either expressed or implied.

NOLO Wills - Everybody needs a will, but where do you start? Here's information on making your own simple will (and why a simple will is much better than a complicated one) key things to make sure your will takes care of (like naming a guardian for your kids), and what a will can't do.

FindLaw Estate Planning Center - Here you will find information on the legal steps you can take to ensure that your property and health care wishes are honored, and that loved ones are provided for in your absence. Get detailed information on wills, trusts, health directives, living wills, the probate system, as well as practical guidance on estate tax issues.

Tips for Donors

NOLO Trusts - Avoiding probate court proceedings after your death can save your family time, money, and headaches. Here are simple, inexpensive ways, including making a revocable living trust, to do your family that big favor.

There are many sites on the Internet about wills and estate planning. Do a search for "Estate Planning your state."

Charity Navigator - Top Ten Charities and more.

Find an Attorney

Lawyers.com - Attorney, lawyer, and law firm directory to find a lawyer, attorneys, and local law firms. Lawyers.com is the #1 lawyer directory.

LegalMatch.com - Use LegalMatch to find lawyers in your area, attorneys for your case, find a lawyer, find lawyers, legal advice, legal information, and more. All your legal needs can be handled online, and our service is free.

Find an Estate Planner

National Association of Estate Planners - The estate planning professionals who appear in this searchable database—which you can search by zip code or state—all hold the Accredited Estate Planner® (AEP®) designation which is awarded and administered by the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils (NAEPC).

About.com - Searching for a lawyer who can help you put together a good estate plan may seem like a daunting task. But with a little help, you should be able to find several qualified lawyers to choose from. Here's a list of seven resources for locating an estate planning attorney in your state.

Smart Money - You spend a lifetime working hard and saving for goals like buying a house, retiring and sending your kids to college. Most experts recommend hiring a financial adviser to help you reach those goals, yet how do you find someone you can trust?

Find a Financial Planner

CNN Money - A reference from a friend or family member is a great way to search for a financial planner. But make sure you've got similar needs as the person who's giving the referral. Go to groups like the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards and the Financial Planning Association for additional references.

Wills & Trusts Terminology

uslegeal.com - Definitions linked to on this web page.

What is a Will?

A document in which a person specifies the method to be applied in the management and distribution of his estate after his death.

A will is the legal instrument that permits a person, the testator, to make decisions on how his estate will be managed and distributed after his death. At Common Law, an instrument disposing of Personal Property was called a "testament," whereas a will disposed of real property. Over time the distinction has disappeared so that a will, sometimes called a "last will and testament," disposes of both real and personal property.

If a person does not leave a will, or the will is declared invalid, the person will have died intestate, resulting in the distribution of the estate according to the laws of Descent and Distribution of the state in which the person resided. Because of the importance of a will, the law requires it to have certain elements to be valid. Apart from these elements, a will may be ruled invalid if the testator made the will as the result of undue influence, fraud, or mistake.

A will serves a variety of important purposes. It enables a person to select his heirs rather than allowing the state laws of descent and distribution to choose the heirs, who, although blood relatives, might be people the testator dislikes or with whom he is unacquainted. A will allows a person to decide which individual could best serve as the executor of his estate, distributing the property fairly to the beneficiaries while protecting their interests, rather than allowing a court to appoint a stranger to serve as administrator. A will safeguards a person's right to select an individual to serve as guardian to raise his young children in the event of his death.

What is a Trust?

A relationship created at the direction of an individual, in which one or more persons hold the individual's property subject to certain duties to use and protect it for the benefit of others.

Individuals may control the distribution of their property during their lives or after their deaths through the use of a trust. There are many types of trusts and many purposes for their creation. A trust may be created for the financial benefit of the person creating the trust, a surviving spouse or minor children, or a charitable purpose. Though a variety of trusts are permitted by law, trust arrangements that are attempts to evade creditors or lawful responsibilities will be declared void by the courts.

The law of trusts is voluminous and often complicated, but generally it is concerned with whether a trust has been created, whether it is a public or private trust, whether it is legal, and whether the trustee has lawfully managed the trust and trust property.

What is estate planning?

Arrangements for succession, proper testamentary scheme, testamentary planning, will planning. Generally: tax planning.