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Ideas for a Senior's Last Will & Testament

by Chris Passas

A senior's last will and testament is a written declaration of that individual's intentions for the distribution and ownership of his property, estate and other valuable assets after his death. Formats for a last will and testament can vary by state, but the information must include clear instructions for relatives and beneficiaries.

Assets and Beneficiaries

Write a list of your valuable assets such as money, property, automobiles, jewelry, family heirlooms, antiques, collections, photo albums and other similar items of high financial or sentimental value. Write a list of your beneficiaries. State what gifts your children and grandchildren will receive. If a child or grandchild is absent from a senior's last will and testament, then the child or grandchild may contest that the senior forgot them and challenge the will in court. Mention all relatives by name and what items they will receive. Some states require that a living spouse receives up to half of the estate of the deceased spouse. Consult an attorney for laws in your state if you wish to leave less than half of your estate to a living spouse. A senior may also leave valuable assets to friends and charities and state this in their last will and testament. A senior must state that they are of sound mind to freely and willingly leave their assets to the individuals in the last will and testament. A senior’s intentions must be clear in the will to avoid a challenge by a beneficiary.

The Executor

Choose an executor to carry out the instructions in the last will and testament. An executor is also responsible for paying outstanding taxes, debts and expenses for the deceased. An executor should be someone you trust and who has the necessary skills and time to carry out your last will and testament. Discuss the decision with the prospective executor before naming him in the last will and testament. Naming an attorney as the executor of a last will and testament removes the burden from a relative or a friend, but requires a fee.

Legal Formats

Consult an attorney about the laws in your state concerning a last will and testament since the specific format can vary although the information in a will is similar. For example, some states may not acknowledge the validity of an oral will and may require a written will for legal purposes.

Signatures and Witnesses

The senior must identify himself as the creator of the last will and testament and acknowledge it as such by writing "last will and testament" on the first page of the document. The senior must state that they revoke any previous wills. The senior must sign and date the last will and testament in the presence of at least two witnesses. The witnesses should be individuals who do not benefit from the last will and testament, but whose service is to acknowledge the will. These witnesses can include a notary public. Two witnesses must sign the senior’s last will and testament in each other's presence. The senior’s signature must be at the end of the last will and testament to acknowledge finality since some states may ignore text that follows the signature.

About the Author

Chris Passas is a freelance writer from Nags Head, N.C. He graduated from East Carolina University in 2002 with a bachelor's degree in journalism. He has written online instructional articles since September 2009.