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Wills and Senior Citizens

Updated on September 23, 2009

Should every senior citizen have a will? Of course, that really depends on each seniors situation. If you have little or no estate, maybe you can get by without a lawyer-drawn written will. You may still want to write a hand-written will that will be perfectly legal.

Not all property is disposed of with a will. You don't need a will to dispose of a life insurance policy proceeds. The beneficiary will receive those proceeds. You can have the proceeds payable your estate, in which case a will becomes relevant.

U.S. Savings Bonds payable on death of the owner to another is outside of a will and estate. Jointly owned property with right of survivorship is outside of a will. In most states, there is a small exemption for a surviving widow and children that cannot be taken away in a will.

A person, of course, can only bequeath property that he or she owns at the time of death. If one dies before one inherits property, that person cannot will it to his or her beneficiaries of the estate.

The power to make a legal will is regulated in all states, and if you wish to make a will, you should check on the laws in your particular state. Most states have similar laws, although Louisiana's Napoleanic Code laws may introduce some peculiarities, but probably not many.

There are software programs and sample simple wills online that many can use legally and without worry that they are legal. Make sure you know those are legal in your state.

Fro some seniors, a Holographic Will is all they might need. Holographic wills are hand-written wills. A holographic will must always be signed. All incorporated documents must meet the same requirements as the holographic will. The usual advice is to avoid making a holographic will. Some jurisdictions do not recognize them at all. Only make a holographic will under complete knowledge that they are legal where you live and will execute your estate distribution in the exact way that you wish.

A Nuncupative Will is an unwritten will and while legal is some places, it is never a good idea to use one.

The best advice for senior citizens is to assess your estate. If it has any complications at all, seek the advice of counsel to create a will.

With medical advances today, many seniors are choosing to execute living wills. A living will instruct caretakers what to do in the case that a senior is incapacitated due to illness. This allows a senior to declare what he or she wishes done in a situation where the senior no longer has the capacity to make that decision. This can help ease the pain of decision making on the part of loved ones and is often a good idea today.

In lieu of a living will a senior may want to give a durable power of attorney to a loved one. This will not lapse if the senior becomes incompetent to manage his or her own affairs.

Almost two out of every five people with estates die without a will. In this case, the state will distribute your assets according to state law. The state, if effect, makes your will for you. If you die without a will, you will have had no part in the decision on how your estate will pass on to others. It is not particularly expensive to make a will so if you have any estate at all, the best advice is to seek out an attorney and have him or her draw up an appropriate will.

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