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What is a Statutory Will?

Estate Planners | Monday, July 11th, 2011

One of the simplest wills is the statutory will. The statutory will is a standard legal form that a testator (person making a will) completes by filling in particular information and checking boxes. The statutory will is binding and considering legally valid in only a handful of states, so simply downloading and printing a statutory will form and then filling it out certainly gives no guarantees that it will ever be accepted in the jurisdiction where you live, unless you have checked to be sure that your state recognizes such a form. And because the statutory will is written in very generalized and simple terms, it is often difficult to complete a statutory will form and be certain that the form will address all of the needs that you have for planning how your estate will be handled when you die.

Simplistic Form Not For Everyone

Because the statutory will is so simplistic, it only covers a very limited number of instances and very simple plans for one’s estate. The plan that you have for the distribution of your assets and property may not even fit into the scope of the statutory will form. For example, the statutory will version for one state does not allow for assets and property to be left to more than one beneficiary. For this reason, if you wish to list more than one beneficiary for your estate, the form will not fit your particular situation. Further, if you alter or attempt to add anything to the form in order to make it fit your estate plan, the statutory will can be declared invalid upon your death. When you pass away, if your statutory will is declared invalid, you would have died intestate, or without a will, and your estate would be divided up and distributed per the intestacy laws in your state.

Should I Use a Statutory Will?

The short answer is “probably not”. While there are a limited number of folks whose estates might be properly handled with a mere “fill in the blank” will like a statutory will, it is invariably a better idea for you to seek legal advice and the services of an estate planner. A downloadable statutory will is not a substitute for advice from someone who is accustomed to dealing with estates, trusts, and wills every day. An estate planner can best advise you on matters like creating a trust so that your heirs do not lose a significant portion of their inheritance to Uncle Sam via the estate tax or death tax, as well as other strategies that can benefit your family if you were to pass away. Money spent on having a legal, valid will drafted by a qualified professional is a wise investment in the future of your family, and is altogether necessary if you have minor children. A statutory will may not handle such issues as guardianship for your children or other specifics that a true, legal will can. See an estate planner to determine which type of will is the best for your particular situation.

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