Fairfield County Will Drafting Lawyer
Everything You Need to Know About Creating a Will in Connecticut
All of us want our loved ones to be well taken care of once we pass away.
Unfortunately, our behavior doesn’t always align with those intentions. Roughly 60 percent of Americans do not have a will or any form of estate planning, according to the American Association of Retired Persons. Drafting a will is one of those things that we know we should do, but tend to postpone anyway.
That’s natural — nobody likes thinking about death or leaving loved ones behind. Yet it’s also an attitude that can put people we care about at financial risk, or force them to deal with a protracted legal struggle in probate court.
To help you ensure that doesn’t happen, let’s take a closer look at the basics of drafting a will in Connecticut.
A last will and testament is a legal document that outlines your preferences for the disposition of your assets following death. A will can also allow you to designate a guardian for your minor children, designate a trustee to manage any assets left to your children and designate an executor who ensures the terms of your will are carried out.
While Connecticut allows residents to create their own wills, it’s critically important that the process be free of errors. One mistake in the drafting process can invalidate your intentions — and that mistake can be as minor as poor or vague wording. Unless your estate is very small and extremely straightforward, hiring a law firm is the best way to ensure that the will drafting process is done correctly and the subsequent document will be deemed valid.
Additionally, estate planning is often quite complex, and there are many issues outside of simple asset distribution that may not occur to a layperson. State laws governing estate planning can complicate matters, and there are a number of contingencies that can impact the drafting of a will. These contingencies can include owning property in multiple states, wanting to protect children from previous marriages, transition of business ownership, a large investment portfolio, the desire to exclude children etc.
For those people who wish to leave money or other assets to people outside their immediate family, it’s also generally a smart idea to consult with an attorney, as such distributions are more likely to be challenged in probate.
Connecticut Will Requirements
Like most states, Connecticut has some baseline requirements for creating a legally valid will.
First, the creator of the will must be at least 18-years-old and of sound mind, capable of making rational and reasonable decisions. Second, at least one beneficiary must be designated within the will.
Once a will is drafted, you must sign the document in front of two witnesses, and have those witnesses also sign in front of you, in order to make the will legal in the state of Connecticut. While Connecticut does not require notarization of wills, residents and their witnesses can choose to visit a notary and make the will “self-proving” in order to expedite the probate process.
Connecticut typically allows wills drafted in other states to stand as long as they conform to the legal requirements in the state in which they were drafted. State laws also allow wills to be changed, provided proper protocol is adhered to. Changes can be drafted on a second document and entered into the wills as codicils. Alternatively, a new will reflecting the desired changes may be written, invalidating the previous document.
Should you pass away without a will in Connecticut, you will be declared intestate by the courts. This means all of your property and money will be distributed according to state laws. Typically, in such cases, the estate will be divided between spouses and children. In cases where no spouse, children or siblings are to be found, the estate will be divided among next of kin — or the closest living relatives of the deceased.
Handwritten and oral wills are typically not valid under Connecticut law.
I’m Not Wealthy — Do I Really Need a Will?
The idea that “wills are for the wealthy” is perhaps the largest misconception in estate planning. If you have a family, a home or a savings account, it’s advisable to have a will in place.
If you have minor children and you and your spouse pass away simultaneously (a terrible but sadly common scenario), it will fall to the court to determine a guardian for your children if no will exists specifying otherwise. By naming a guardian (and an alternate guardian) in your will, you can help ensure your wishes are followed.
Additionally, the average person will tend to discover that her estate is worth more than she suspected once she tallies up things such as home equity, retirement savings, insurance coverage etc. By drawing up a will, you can make sure that your assets are put to work helping support your loved ones.
Finding the Right Legal Partner
Creating a valid last will and testament helps ensure that your loved ones will be taken care of as you see fit after your passing. Estate planning laws can be quite complex, however, so it’s critically important to find an experienced legal partner who can offer assistance and counsel. Doing so will help ensure that your will remains valid, and that your loved ones are not mired in a protracted probate battle.
Dealing with a last will and testament is often a delicate situation, as the decisions made in the drafting process can affect family members for decades following the will’s execution.
It’s important, therefore, to find a Connecticut will drafting lawyer who makes it a priority to handle the process with dignity, care and concern for all of those involved.
At Brickley Law, we specialize in making drafting a will as simple and painless as possible. If you are one of the 60-percent of Americans who have yet to draw up a will — or you need to update an existing will — we urge you to call us immediately for a free consultation.
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