How to Review the Will (or Family Tree)

How to Review the Will (or Family Tree)
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    How to review the Will (or family tree).
    Hi, Anthony again let's talk about how to review the Will
    or the family tree if there is no Will.
    Now the first question you want to ask,
    well first let me start off by saying that this
    does not replace the advice of an attorney
    or seeking the council of an attorney but this is just
    sort of a cheat sheet so you have at least
    a ballpark sense of what's going on with the Will,
    before you contact an attorney.
    So the first question you need to ask yourself is,
    is the Will valid?
    Was the Will done correctly is it a legal binding document?
    And here's some of the things you need to look at,
    number one is it an original?
    Sometimes you'll end up, if you'll look carefully
    you'll realize that all you have is a photocopy
    not an actual original signed document,
    you need the original.
    Number two, it has to be typed, it cannot be handwritten.
    Some states are different, but in most states
    it has to be a typed document
    and handwritten Wills are only allowed in the most narrowest
    of circumstances,
    it's just highly unlikely it would be allowed
    in your circumstances so just it needs to be typed.
    Three is it signed and dated?
    You'd be surprised I mean it sounds intuitive
    that the Will actually has to be signed by the person
    who made the Will but a lot of folks come in
    with a Will that was prepared by an attorney
    they paid for it but the person never signed it
    and all that is, is a draft that's not a binding document
    at all so it has to be signed and dated.
    The Will has to be witnessed, most states require
    two sometimes three witnesses
    and they have to have signed the Will in the presence
    of the person making the Will.
    There have to be two or three witnesses.
    Now this is something that's hard to tell from looking
    at the document but was the person competent
    when they made the Will, if the date of the Will
    coincides with a time when the person was you know
    hospitalized or suffering some lack of competency,
    dementia Alzheimers something like that then you might
    have something to look at that might be cause to
    contact an attorney to see if there was a lack
    of competency.
    And lastly was it a do it yourself Will,
    or was it supervised by an attorney?
    And the reason for looking at that is because
    a do it yourself Will, will come under much closer scrutiny
    by the court versus if it was prepared
    by an attorney right or wrong, whether or not you agree
    with this the court will give it a lot more leeway
    and a lot more sort of benefit of the doubt
    when it reviews it for you.
    Okay now that you've taken a look at whether or not the Will
    is valid you want to know who inherits?
    You want to take a look at who inherits because it'll
    help you understand whose gonna be involved,
    whose contact information you might need to gather,
    and figuring out oh is this person even alive, right?
    So with a Will you know Wills can be highly customizable
    and different but what you want to focus on for most Wills
    is two areas, specific gifts and the residuary gift.
    I'll describe that, specific gifts are pretty
    straightforward, $10,000 to Bob.
    My Cadillac car to John.
    Very specific items or dollar amounts.
    And then every Will should have what's called a residuary
    provision, a catch all whatever was not specifically
    dealt with in the specific gifts, specifically specific,
    is given out in percentages.
    Whatever's left is carved into
    percentages to certain people.
    It can say perhaps and all or 100% of my residuary
    to my spouse, or my residuary 50-50 you know half
    and half to my two kids something along those lines.
    If there is no Will or if the Will is invalid
    then you apply the state's default inheritance laws
    often called intestacy and it usually breaks down
    something like this, I'll give you the New York example.
    It depends on who the surviving family members are.
    If there's a spouse all to the spouse,
    if there's a spouse and kids, the first 50,000 off the top
    to the spouse and then whatever's left half to the spouse,
    half divided equally amongst the kids.
    And then once you get into nieces, nephews,
    aunts and uncles it sort of gets pro rated
    depending on whose the closest relation.
    You can talk to your attorney about the exact calculation.
    And lastly what you want to figure out when you're
    reviewing the Will or the family tree is, who's in charge?
    And this is again similarly this is important because
    you want to know who needs to be contacted,
    figure out whose living, whose still in the United States
    things like that, now if there's a valid Will,
    the person whose in charge might be the nominated executor.
    It'll be a section in the Will that says I nominate,
    and appoint my spouse, or my brother John to be the executor
    of my Will and if he's not available maybe a successor
    a backup and maybe even a backup after that.
    If there is no Will or if the Will is invalid then again
    the state has default inheritance laws called intestacy,
    and it will typically be similar to who inherits
    based on who is the closest family relation.
    Now what I need to point out is neither of these things
    are binding these are guidelines, if for whatever example
    the named executor or their next of kin is not able to
    is does not want to does no have the time to be
    the executor then that's something that you
    can cooperatively opt out of and choose somebody else
    to be the executor instead whose lifestyle
    or whose needs better suits the role
    of executor for the family.
    So that's our summary of how to review the Will
    or the family tree, hope you found this helpful
    I'm Anthony New York Probate Attorney
    and Executor, take care.
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