Writing a Will

Happy New Year! We have made it to 2022 and have experienced many changes over the past couple of years. As the year 2021 draws to a close, many people might be thinking about some New Year's Resolutions for 2022. Carrie Krug, MSU Extension Richland County FCS Agent, has a suggestion for a new resolution for you: How about writing a will or making sure your current will is up to date? Did you know that seven out of ten Americans do not have a written will says Marsha Goetting, MSU Extension Family Economics Specialist.

A will is a document explaining how an individual wants their property distributed after death. It is the guide the district court will use to distribute the estate. Making a will allows the individual power to decide who receives their property, how much people receive, when they shall receive ownership of it, and what they can do with it. Plus, a will does not go into effect while the person is alive; it can only be validated upon a person's death.

In Montana, you can make your own will. The will must all be in your own handwriting (also called a holographic will). However, holographic wills can increase cost and trouble for heirs. Sometimes words used throughout the will are not interpreted by the district court as the individual had intended.

One question some individuals often asked about wills: what is the cost? Attorney fees vary depending on the complexity of the will and size of an estate. Do not be afraid to ask attorneys for an estimate for their services in preparing a will (preferably at their first meeting).

For those of you who already have a will, keep in mind it's important to review your will as changes can occur in families (birth in the family, death of a family member, moving, buying/selling property, etc.). If an individual remains competent, they can change or revoke their will. One-way to do this is to revoke their will entirely and create a new one. Second, a will can be changed by making a codicil (supplement) and must be executed (signed and witnessed).

So, as we begin a new year, try a New Year's resolution by checking your will and making sure it is up to date for your current situation. If you do not currently have a will, make your resolution to write a will.

To get the Wills or Selecting an Attorney in Montana to Develop an Estate Plan or Administer an Estate (Probate) MontGuide and for other estate planning MontGuides for Montanans contact Carrie Krug at the MSU Extension Richland County office at 406-433-1206, or find her online: https://www.montana.edu/estateplanning/eppublications.html.


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