Most estate plans include a Last Will and Testament along with a number of other financial and healthcare documents. Any person of who is over the age of eighteen who is competent and of sound mind can make a Will by simply observing the formal legal requirements for executing a Will. The person making a Will must clearly identify themselves, stating their full legal name along with a brief description of family members. They also must declare that the document being executed is, in fact, and is intended to be their Last Will and Testament. The Will also must be freely executed; not made under duress or with the undue influence of another person. Finally, the Will must be signed and dated in the presence of two witnesses, preferably two people who personally know the Testator. The witnesses cannot be beneficiaries under the terms of the Will. These are the basic legal requirements. If any of these basic elements are missing, it is unlikely that the document will be considered to be a valid Will. Additionally, there are some other legal issues that should be taken into consideration. For instance, if possible, the Will should be self-proved by having a Notary Public attach a self-proved affidavit. Furthermore, it always is advisable to seek the advice of a local attorney when making a Will to ensure this important estate planning document conforms with all the current legal requirements. For more complex estate planning, a revocable or irrevocable trust may help avoid probate and/or reduce estate taxes. In the event of future incapacity, an well constructed estate plan also may help avoid the need to have a Court appointed guardianship. Another important consideration is who should be included in the healthcare decision making process. Making these types of decisions beforehand can be extremely helpful to other family members in the event that an unanticipated healthcare issue arises in the future. Finally, making decisions about funeral or other disposition arrangements may be included in a person's estate plan. Every estate plan is unique, but everyone at least should have a valid and self-proved Last Will and Testament. Estate planning does not have to be complex in order to be effective, but planning for the future should be Chess, not Checkers.
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