What are the different types of Wills?

Updated: Oct 12

These days, there is no longer one and only choice. Every online store offers at least 10 varieties of sparkling water and 20 types of granola.

Naturally, there are many different types of Wills as well. The million dollar question is "How do I choose the right type of Will?"

Different types of Wills serve different purposes, and the one you need really depends on your specific circumstances. Here, we are going to discuss the six (6) commonly used forms of Wills and some basic information on each type.

This is to give you a quick overview and general understanding. As you might already know, there can be some overlap between the various types of Wills, as in, a Will can be simple and joint and holographic, but more on that later.

Six Commonly Used Wills
1. Simple Will
2. Joint Will
3. Testamentary Trust Will
4. Holographic Will
5. Oral Will
6. Living Will

1) Simple Will

A simple Will is the most basic form of Will. Its purpose is to just record who you want to inherit your assets and, in certain countries, who should control the distribution of your estate.

We have included a basic template under Resources for your reference.

If you have a large estate or property located in another state or country, a simple Will may be too simple. It will probably lack the details to help file for possible estate taxes.

Plus, certain jurisdictions might not recognize the part of your Will dealing with assets situated in another jurisdiction. In such cases, you might want to consult a specialist who will help you write a more detailed Will.

2) Joint Will (common law countries only)

A Joint Will, as the name indicates, is written by a married couple who want to consolidate their estate planning needs into one single document. This simplifies estate planning: when one spouse dies, the surviving other shall inherit all of their property within the Will.

Then, when the second spouse passes away, their children typically inherit everything. As opposed to a mutual Will, a joint Will allows the aforementioned “spouse to spouse” transfer to automatically occur.

A major issue with a joint Will is that it cannot be altered unless both parties agree on the changes. Therefore, if you and your spouse have an disagreement on the Will (think divorce), or you want to disinherit one of your children for whatever reason, things could get complicated. This is also quite inflexible for the surviving spouse, as their wishes may change over time but instructions can no longer be changed.

3) Testamentary Trust Will

A testamentary trust Will sets up a trust for the benefit of your beneficiaries and names a trustee to handle the trust. This is useful if you have beneficiaries who are minors or whom you do not want to handle your estate on their own.

With this type of Will, you can place assets in trust and set conditions on the inheritance, which may be gradual based on age or other factors. Bear in mind that the cost of setting up a trust may be significant.

4) Holographic Will

A holographic will is a Will that does not need to be signed by witnesses or a notary public in order to be valid. This type of Will is traditionally written by hand, dated and signed.

Many countries, mostly common law countries (England, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand) do not recognize a holographic Will as enforceable, hence likely to be challenged. If you live in such a country, beware, as leaving only a holographic Will may cause your family extra heartache when it comes time to distributing your property.

5) Oral Will

An oral Will, which is occasionally referred to as a nuncupative Will, is meant for individuals who are too unhealthy to complete a written or typed Will. Plenty of countries do not accept this type of Will, but those that do often need ample witness interaction. So if your country allows the use of an oral Will, be sure you meet the necessary witness stipulations.

6) Living Will

A Living Will has nothing to do with distributing your property after your death. Instead, it allows you to choose what medical treatments you want to have if you become incapacitated. In a Living Will, you may also name someone to make decisions on your behalf.

Living Wills do not perform the same job as a simple Will, but that doesn’t make them any less important. As a matter of fact, having both in place as you get older is a great idea.

Remember that you can have more than one type of Will at the same time and different Wills can all be valid. A Living Will, for example, can legally co-exist with a simple Will since they serve entirely different purposes.

The assistance of a Will drafting specialist can be invaluable in choosing the right type of Will for you. Take some time to be sure that you have done things right can make a huge difference for your loved ones later on.

Writing your Will is the very first step, and it’s an important one. But that’s not enough. In the digital age, the next step is to store your Will online. Otherwise, what happens if your person of confidence is not able to find your Will in a timely manner? liteWill is the only Will registration platform that is available globally and that provides the option to store your Will online. ‘A Will that is not online is like a Will that does not exist’.

This portion of the website is for information only. The statements and opinions are the expression of their author, not of liteWill, and have not been evaluated for accuracy, completeness or changes in the law. Information contained in this article is not a substitute for tax or legal advice.

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