Wills and trusts are two incredibly important tools that, when used properly, can provide a family with peace of mind. Each of these documents is used by will and trust lawyers to help their clients plan for both the unexpected as well as the inevitable. At the Harris Law Firm, PLLC, we have more than 40 years of experience helping clients from all backgrounds and walks of life navigate the complex legal issues they face. Contact us today.
What Is a Will?
A will, also referred to as a last will and testament, is a legal document that clarifies how an individual would like their assets distributed upon their death. Wills are also used to name guardians for minor children. By addressing these two needs, wills are one of the easiest ways to avoid both the probate and guardianship processes.
What Happens If You Die Without a Will in Mississippi?
If you die without a will in Mississippi, the assets in your estate will pass on to your heirs under the Mississippi intestate laws. These are rigid default rules that dictate how estate assets must be distributed upon a person’s death, considering only the biological relationship that a person has with the deceased. In other words, courts will not consider the decedent’s intentions or desires if they fail to memorialize those intentions in a will.
When Is the Best Time to Create a Will?
The best time to create a will is as soon as possible. One of the primary benefits of having a valid will in place is that it provides clarity to loved ones and limits the chances of familial disputes. While we all hope to live long lives, the future is uncertain, and it is best to have a plan in place to address the distribution of estate assets in the event of a tragic accident or sudden illness.
What Makes a Mississippi Will Valid?
To create a Mississippi will, you must be at least 18 years old and be of “sound and disposing mind” at the time you sign the document. Additionally, wills should be in writing because Mississippi law only allows oral wills in certain situations. Wills must also be signed in front of two witnesses, each of which signs in front of the testator.
Are Handwritten Wills Valid in Mississippi?
Yes, handwritten wills, also referred to as holographic wills, are permitted in Mississippi. However, holographic wills are generally best reserved for emergency situations where someone is unable to draft and execute a written will. This is because handwritten wills are much easier to challenge, increasing the chance of a will contest.
What Is a Will Contest?
To “contest” a will means to challenge its validity. Most often, will contests are based on one of the following:
- The person creating the will (testator) lacked testamentary capacity at the time they executed the document;
- The will was the product of undue influence;
- The will was not properly witnessed or signed;
- The will was fraudulent; or
- A more recent version of the will exists.
Will contests can inject uncertainty into the estate administration process and increase the likelihood of familial disputes. Therefore, wherever possible, it is best to reduce the chances of a will contest.
What Is a Trust?
Trusts are documents that create a legal relationship between at least three parties. A grantor creates a trust, naming a trustee to administer the trust assets for the benefit of one or more beneficiaries. Trusts have a variety of uses, including:
- Avoiding probate,
- Limiting a beneficiary’s unfettered access to their inheritance,
- Protecting assets from creditors,
- Providing for family members with special needs, and
- Simplifying the Medicaid application process.
These are just a few of the most common uses for trusts; there are many others. An experienced Mississippi wills and trusts lawyer can help individuals and families better understand all the possible benefits of a trust.
What Are the Types of Trusts?
There are many different types of trusts, all of which fall into one of two categories. Revocable trusts are flexible in that they can be modified or terminated by the trust’s creator at any time during their life. Assets in a revocable trust are not subject to probate. However, revocable trusts do not provide asset protection or estate tax benefits. For example, a living trust is a type of revocable trust.
Irrevocable trusts, on the other hand, are less flexible, as they cannot be modified or terminated once created. However, irrevocable trusts provide a wider range of potential benefits, including lowering estate taxes. For example, a first-party special needs trust must be created as an irrevocable trust.
Contact the Experienced Mississippi Wills & Trusts Lawyers at the Harris Law Firm, PLLC, for Immediate Assistance
If you have questions about the creation of a will or trust and want to learn more about how these documents can help you plan for your family’s future, reach out to the Harris Law Firm, PLLC. At the Harris Law Firm, PLLC, we provide personalized legal solutions and one-on-one attention to each of our clients. We pride ourselves in helping your family come up with effective solutions that will provide you with peace of mind for years to come. To learn more and to schedule a free consultation, contact us today.