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Types of Wills

Types of Wills


Jennifer Mcgee


Updated on  

January 3, 2023

8 Mins


Will is the most important legal document of Estate Planning by which a person transfers his/her property as per his wish, which comes into effect after the death of the person.

When a person dies without creating a Will, he/she is said to have died intestate. Dying intestate compels the family of the deceased to spend a lot of money and time on acquiring the estate. It is necessary to create a Will so that your hard-earned money and assets are distributed among your family and friends as per your wish.

Different types of Wills serve different purposes. Depending upon your circumstances, you have to decide which one is going to serve you the best. Here's how each of them works.

What are the different types of Wills? 

1. Simple Wills

 It is the most common type of Will. It involves your wishes on how you want your estate to be distributed among your heirs after your death.

This may include:

  •  Bank accounts,
  •  Real estate, and
  •  Stocks

which can be transferred to the beneficiaries designated by you in your Will. 

Through a Simple Will, Parents with minor children may name a person as a Guardian for their children.

Please note - Simple Will is not ideal for people with high net worth and complex Estate.

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“Should have done this before, had made it up to be really hard in my head. This was super easy!”

2. Living Wills

Also known as Advance healthcare Directives. Do not get confused with its name. It is not a Will. It's a   document.  In case you become temporarily ill or injured and unable to communicate your wish, Advance Healthcare Directives helps you determine what decisions should be taken with respect to your medical health

These preferences can be regarding :

  • Medication, 
  • Treatment options, 
  • Surgical procedures, 
  • End-of-life care, and more.

A medical power of attorney is also a part of your Living Will where you choose your healthcare agent to make healthcare decisions on your behalf when you are not able to make it by reason of illness or unconsciousness.

3. Mirror Wills

As the name suggests, these are Wills that are identical in nature. They are created by Married couples or Domestic Partners. Mirror Wills ensures the property is primarily transferred to the other spouse first and then to any other heir or beneficiary.

Couples leave their entire estate to the other partner in the event of their death. They may also designate some secondary beneficiaries for their Estate.

Please note - Be careful while creating a Mirror Will as either of the spouses can change the contents of their Will without informing the other. Trusting your Partner is vital while creating this Will.

4. Joint Wills

These are Similar to Mirror Wills. They are also created by the couples to ensure their financial security before distributing their estate among their heirs. The only difference is that it is a single Will jointly made by the couples, unlike a Mirror Will

Both the partners create this Will by specifying their wishes collectively followed by their signatures.

Please note -  Joint Wills lack flexibility. The contents cannot be changed by either of the spouses without informing the other. This is a drawback. In case of the death of either spouse, the other cannot amend it. 

Types of Wills | Legal document of Estate Planning

5. Holographic Wills

A Hand-written Will be signed by the testator. It is an alternative to the Traditional Wills provided by the lawyers or the ones created online. Even if it is easier, it is not recommended by the lawyers to create a Holographic Will unless there is a necessity to do so by reason of a medical emergency or any other inevitable circumstance. These wills are easy to tamper with and challenge in court.

Please Note - Holographic Wills are valid only in about half of the states like California, Texas, etc and that is also with some requirements which may vary from state to state.

6. Nuncupative Wills

Also known as Oral Wills, are the wills that are spoken in the presence of some witnesses and not written by the testator. These are usually made by persons who are on their deathbeds and are about to die. That's why it is also known as Deathbed Will. 

Please note- Just like Holographic Wills, Oral wills are also valid in only a few states and they are difficult to prove in court on the credibility of only 2-3 witnesses(the number of witnesses varies from state to state).

Despite creating an oral Will, create a Will online and protect your loved ones from unnecessary troubles.

7. Pour-over Wills

Pour- Over Wills are those which automatically transfer your leftover assets into the previously set up Living Trust which were not included earlier.  Basically, these Wills work alongside the Living Trust as a backup. 

One of the main benefits of a living trust is that its assets don’t have to go through probate. But in the case of a Pour-over Will, it has to go through Probate and may cause a delay in the distribution of property via a Living Will which usually takes a few weeks.

Probate is a judicial procedure whereby the court determines the inheritors of the assets of a deceased person. 

If you have not included some of your property before death in the living trust or if you bought a new one and you already have a living trust, these Wills will transfer them into the living trust on their own.

Please Note- Pour Over Wills makes your Estate plan easier as it is governed by a single document, i.e. the trust. 

8.Testamentary Trust Wills

Testamentary Trusts are created alongside the Last Will and Testament of a person as per the directions of the Will maker specified in the Last Will. The trust property is managed by a trustee designated by the Will maker who manages the trust property upon the Will maker’s death. These Trusts are effective only after the death of Will maker. 

Normal Wills without trusts give the assets to the beneficiaries directly but the person creating these Testamentary Trust Will can put up certain conditions upon the beneficiaries for accessing the trust property depending upon their age or any other factor which the testator deems fit. By doing this, the testator ensures the prevention of any irresponsible financial decisions made by the beneficiary for the trust property

 These are helpful in the conditions when:

  • The beneficiary is a minor.
  • The beneficiary cannot manage the property independently.

Please Note- Unlike the simple trust, Testamentary Trust have to go through probate and beneficiaries are not required to pay taxes on income distributed from the trust. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

What will happen to my property if I die without a Will leaving a spouse?

In almost every state, the surviving spouse gets a portion of your estate. Remember that these laws differ from state to state so it is advised to take legal assistance. In case you have children from a previous partner, 50% of your estate will be divided among those children and the rest 50% to your current spouse.

What will happen to my property if I die without a Will leaving a Domestic partner?

Domestic Partnership - Not all states recognize Domestic Partnerships. A registered domestic partner attains the status similar to a married surviving spouse in states like - Hawaii, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, Vermont and Connecticut.

What will happen to my property if I die without a Will and I was single?

-Single with child - Children would inherit your estate. -Single and childless - Parents(if still alive) or the siblings in absence of parents. -Single with no child/parents/siblings- In this case, descendants of your siblings. and in their absence, the family of your parents side gets an equal share in your estate.

Does a Will have to be registered to be valid?

Registration of Will(last Will and Testament) is NOT required in any state. However, it is advised to register your Will to avoid future stress. 

What is the probate of Will?

Probate is a legal process whereby the authenticity and validity of a Will is determined by the Probate Court. These courts have limited Jurisdiction over entertaining matters relating to a person's death.
Jennifer Mcgee
Parent to five young children. Expert in Estate Planning, Probate, and Family Law Matters. Volunteer with Victim’s Advocates in the local sheriff's department...
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Jennifer Mcgree
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