A Last Will and Testament, also known as a Will or Last Will, is a document that allows you to dictate how your assets will be distributed after you pass away, as well as how dependent children and pets will be cared for.
Who are the parties in a Last Will and Testament?
There are many different parties in a Last Will and Testament, and each has a different role.
Testator or testatrix: A testator or testatrix is the person that the Will is being created for and whose property will be distributed once they are deceased.
Executor or personal representative: An executor, also known as a personal representative, is the person who the testator or testatrix has designated to administer their wishes in terms of how the estate will be divided. Generally, your executor cannot be a minor or someone that has been convicted of a criminal offence. You may have more than one executor, and you should have an alternate executor should anything keep your first choice from carrying out your estate plans.
Beneficiary: A beneficiary is someone who will receive either an aspect of or all of your estate. You may name multiple beneficiaries and divide your assets as you see fit.
Guardian: A guardian is someone who you appoint to take care of your minor or dependent children when you pass away.
Pet caretaker: If you have pets, a pet caretaker is someone who you would name to care for your pet when you pass away.
When considering who should be your executor, guardian, or pet caretaker, ensure that it’s someone who is trustworthy and can handle the weight of managing your affairs after you pass away. Talk to the person you choose beforehand to ensure that they are willing to be a part of your Last Will and Testament.
What information should be included in a Last Will and Testament?
To complete your Last Will and Testament, you will need to provide:
- Personal information about yourself, such as your name and address
- Your current marital status
- Who you wish to name as your executor and their contact information
- Information about all of your biological and legally adopted children
- Information about any assets or gifts you wish to give and the recipients or beneficiaries of them
When do you need a Last Will and Testament?
A Last Will and Testament is beneficial for anyone who wishes to dictate how their assets will be distributed after they pass away instead of leaving it up to the court to decide.
You should create a Last Will and Testament if you:
- Get married, have children, or separate from a spouse
- Have monetary assets, such as investments, savings, etc., that you wish to distribute to family or friends
- Own property and wish to leave it to specific beneficiaries
- Own a business (or shares in one) and wish to leave it to someone specific
- Travel frequently
- Have a high-risk or dangerous job
Does a Last Will and Testament need to be notarized?
A Last Will and Testament does not need to be notarized in order to be valid. However, it generally must be signed by the testator or testatrix (the person who created the will) and witnesses.
The witnesses that sign your Will need to be of sound mind (able to understand what they are signing), cannot be minors, and must sign the Will in your presence. Typically, a witness also cannot be a beneficiary of the Will or a spouse of a beneficiary.
What is the residue of an estate?
The residue of your estate is what is left after all of your debts, funeral expenses, taxes, and other balances have been paid. The residue of your estate is generally what you leave to your beneficiaries. In your Will, if the residue is not left to any beneficiary, it will be distributed as decided by a court.