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Avoid the drama, get a will

The best way for a family to experience drama and foolishness is for a family member with any kind of assets to pass away without a will.

Some of the worst behavior is frequently exhibited during the time of a family member's death. One would never want to see such behavior, but unfortunately true colors come out during this time period.  So plan accordingly.

How can this unfortunate situation be avoided? Whether your assets are few or significant, a will lets your family know what your wishes are regarding funeral arrangements as well as the disposition of assets.

A will can even address guardianship of underage children. If your children have assets coming to them and they are underage, safeguards should be put in place to protect the property they will receive under the will. It would be a shame for a guardian to have access to the funds and mismanage the money. Believe it or not, this happens frequently.

The executor of a will is the person that you appoint in your will to be responsible for supervising the distribution of property in addition to paying all debts and taxes. This person has to be mature, responsible and above petty games because this is a serious time and business has to be handled properly. Choose your executor wisely just as you would choose the person responsible for your power of attorney.

If you are reading this article, 18 years old and of sound mind, do not delay. Make an appointment with an attorney today to draft your will. If you cannot afford an attorney, draft your own handwritten will.

Meanwhile, here are a few of the many different types of wills.

Simple will

A simple will provides easy instructions on how to distribute your assets for an uncomplicated estate. You can purchase these from stores already preprinted.

Testamentary will

Sometimes people are not ready to receive assets because they may not be old enough or mature enough. In such a situation you may want to have a trust set up after your death to receive the funds and hold it until the person is ready to receive and manage the assets.

Pourover will

This particular will places assets into a trust that has already been established. Anything that was not placed into the pre-existing trust prior to death can be placed into the trust after death.

Holographic will

A holographic will must be handwritten by the person who is establishing the will.

Self-proved will

A self-proved will typically has affidavits of witnesses attached to it.

Joint or mutual will

A joint will is typically one that covers both the husband and wife. It is usually used when they are leaving substantially all of their assets to each other. A mutual will is more than one document, where the parties leave their assets to each other in separate wills.

Living will

A living will is not used upon death.  It is a document that allows a person to identify medical treatment that is to be received or not to be received if one is too ill or injured to communicate.


A codicil is an addition or amendment to a will that was previously drafted. Usually it is a separate document and used if the person does not want to write a completely new will. It is often used when certain major life changes have occurred such as: a new birth, adoption, marriage, divorce, or death of a previous heir.

Codicils can be tricky or confusing if you have conflicting information in the document. Sometimes it is best to just redo the old will and destroy all copies of the other will by shredding it or setting it on fire, cautiously! Only the lawyer should maintain a copy of the previous will in case the new will is challenged.

NEXT: We complete our series with a conversation regarding Trusts.

(Contact Carlee McCullough, Esq., at 5308 Cottonwood Road, Suite 1A, Memphis, TN 38118, or email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)


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