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Accountants' Handbook Volume Two: Special Industries and Special Topics, Eleventh Edition by LYNFORD GRAHAM, D. R. CARMICHAEL, O. RAY WHITTINGTON

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Chapter 43. ESTATES AND TRUSTS

Philip M. Herr, JD, CPA

Kingsbridge Financial Group, Inc.

ESTATES—LEGAL BACKGROUND

(a) EXECUTING A WILL.

A will is a revocable instrument whereby a person makes a disposition of his property to take effect at death. A prudent person should secure legal advice upon reaching the age of majority (age 18 in many states). If the attorney deems it advisable, such person should execute a will. In the will, the testator (maker) should spell out in detail who is to inherit his property upon his death. The testator may also name a person to administer the estate and select a guardian (a protector of the body and property of his children, if any). A will can be very simple or very complex depending on the extent of the testator's property and desires. To be valid, the will must be properly executed according to state law. Such state laws normally require the maker to declare that the document is his last will and testament and to sign it in the presence of at least two witnesses, who also sign. Such witnesses, called subscribing witnesses, may later be called upon to testify about the maker's appearance of mental competence at the time of the execution of the will.

(b) WILL PROVISIONS.

Every will provision must be adhered to by the executor and the courts unless it is contrary to law or against public policy.

A typical will provides for:

  • A statement revoking all prior wills and codicils.

  • An instruction to pay all just debts, expenses of administration, funeral expenses, ...

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