What Is A Will

Shawn Plummer, CRPC

Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor

What is a Will?

An estate will, commonly referred to simply as a “will,” is a legal document that outlines how an individual’s assets and properties will be distributed upon their death. It serves as a testament to their wishes, ensuring that their final desires are respected and executed as intended.

Estate Will

The Purpose of a Will

The primary purpose of a will is to provide clarity and direction regarding the distribution of one’s assets. When there is no will in place, the distribution process can become complicated, leading to potential disputes among heirs. A well-drafted will:

  • Ensures Smooth Transition: It facilitates a smoother transition of assets to the intended beneficiaries.
  • Prevents Legal Disputes: By clearly stating one’s wishes, it minimizes the chances of legal battles among family members.
  • Provides for Minors: If you have children under the legal age, a will can specify guardianship arrangements.

What is Included in an Estate Will?

An estate will typically include:

  • Beneficiaries: Beneficiaries are Individuals or entities you’ve chosen to inherit your assets.
  • Assets: Detailed list of properties, financial accounts, and personal belongings.
  • Executor: The person responsible for ensuring that the will’s directives are carried out.
  • Guardianship: If applicable, details about who will care for minor children.
  • Trusts: Arrangements where assets are held on behalf of a beneficiary. They can be revocable or irrevocable.

Related Reading: Why you need a living will

What Is Included In A Will

How to Write A Will

Writing a will requires careful planning and consideration. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to go about it:

  1. Inventory Your Assets: List all your assets, including real estate, bank accounts, investments, and personal items of value.
  2. Choose Beneficiaries: Decide who will inherit what. Be specific to prevent potential disputes.
  3. Select an Executor: This should be someone trustworthy who will ensure your wishes are carried out.
  4. Consider Trusts: If you want to set aside assets for specific purposes, like a child’s education, consider establishing a trust.
  5. Consult a Legal Expert: While there are DIY will-writing tools available, consulting with a legal expert ensures that your will is compliant with state laws and is legally binding.

Related Reading: Difference between a will and a trust

The Importance of Regular Updates

Estate planning is an ongoing process. As life changes — marriages, births, deaths, asset acquisitions — it’s crucial to update your will to reflect these changes. Regular reviews ensure that your testament remains relevant and valid.

What Is A Persons Will

Making The Will Legal

For a will to be legally binding, it must meet certain criteria:

  • It must be in writing: Whether typed or handwritten.
  • The testator (you) must be of sound mind: You must understand the implications of creating a will.
  • Witnesses: Typically, two witnesses are required to attest that you signed the will voluntarily.

The Differences Between A Living Will and Will

At its heart, the primary difference between a living will and a will lies in their timing and purpose:

  • A will addresses matters after your death, focusing on estate distribution.
  • A living will address matters while you’re still alive but incapacitated, focusing on healthcare decisions.

Will vs. Living Will

Here’s a table that compares and contrasts a living will and a will:

AspectLiving WillWill
Primary PurposeOutlines your wishes regarding medical treatment when you’re incapacitated.Details how you want your assets distributed after your death.
Effective TimingWhile you’re alive but unable to communicate or make decisions.After your death.
Main FocusHealthcare decisions.Estate distribution.
Legal RequirementsVaries by jurisdiction; might require periodic renewals.Typically requires witnesses and validation by a legal authority.
BeneficiariesN/A (It’s about your healthcare preferences).Can specify beneficiaries for assets, guardians for minors, and other posthumous wishes.
Emotional ImplicationDetails of how you want your assets distributed after your death.Ensures that loved ones and assets are taken care of according to your desires.
Document CreationIt provides peace of mind knowing that your healthcare wishes will be respected.Often drafted with the assistance of an estate planning attorney.
DurationRemains effective as long as you’re alive unless you revoke or replace it.Becomes effective upon death and remains so until the estate is settled.
Legal ChallengesCan be challenged if there’s doubt about the document’s validity or your mental state when creating it.It can be drafted with the help of healthcare professionals or an attorney.

This table provides a clear and concise comparison of the two documents, highlighting their distinct purposes and characteristics.


An estate will is more than just a legal document; it’s a testament to your life’s work and your wishes for the future. By understanding its definition, purpose, and the intricacies of what is included, you’re better equipped to embark on the journey of estate planning. Remember, while the process might seem daunting, the peace of mind it offers is invaluable. With careful planning, legal guidance, and regular updates, you can ensure that your legacy is honored exactly as you envision.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can you write a will online?

Yes, you can write a will online using various platforms and tools. However, it’s essential to ensure it meets legal requirements and is valid in your jurisdiction. Consulting a legal expert is recommended for accuracy and compliance.

Is it recommended to write a will in person?

Yes, writing a will in person, preferably with a legal expert, ensures clarity, and compliance with local laws and minimizes potential disputes, offering peace of mind for your estate’s future distribution.

How do you create an annuity through a will?

To create an annuity through a will, specify that part of the estate’s assets are to be used to purchase an annuity for a named beneficiary.

Shawn Plummer, CRPC

Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor

Shawn Plummer is a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor, insurance agent, and annuity broker with over 14 years of first-hand experience with annuities and insurance. Since beginning his journey in 2009, he has been pivotal in selling and educating about annuities and insurance products. Still, he has also played an instrumental role in training financial advisors for a prestigious Fortune Global 500 insurance company, Allianz. His insights and expertise have made him a sought-after voice in the industry, leading to features in renowned publications such as Time Magazine, Bloomberg, Entrepreneur, Yahoo! Finance, MSN, SmartAsset, The Simple Dollar, U.S. News and World Report, Women’s Health Magazine, and many more. Shawn’s driving ambition? To simplify retirement planning, he ensures his clients understand their choices and secure the best insurance coverage at unbeatable rates.

The Annuity Expert is an independent online insurance agency servicing consumers across the United States. The goal is to help you take the guesswork out of retirement planning and find the best insurance coverage at the cheapest rates

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