Most Common Types of Wills: How to Pick the One for You

Estate Planning - May 9, 2022
Man reviewing types of Wills on a laptop

Updated July 31, 2023

When it comes to Wills and estate planning, you have many different types of Wills to choose from. It can be confusing to figure out which one is right for you. Still, choosing the right Will documents can impact your well-being, estate, beneficiaries, assets, and loved ones.

The importance of having a Will can’t be overstated. In this article, we will discuss the different types of Wills and what each one entails. In general, there are Wills that cover the distribution of your estate and assets, as well as Wills that detail your wishes for end-of-life care. We will also help you figure out which things to consider in a Will once you’ve made a selection.

What are the different types of Wills?

You’ve probably heard all sorts of legal phrases thrown around, such as Wills and testaments, trusts and Wills, and other confusing terms. We’ll break down these details below, as well as the forms for Wills and trusts that you’ll need in your estate planning process.

Wills for your estate

Oral Wills

An Oral Will, also known as a nuncupative Will, is spoken aloud instead of being written down. This type of Will is typically used in emergency situations where the person doesn’t have time to write down their wishes. However, Oral Wills have some drawbacks. They can be difficult to prove in court and are typically only valid for small estates.

Simple Wills

A Simple Will outlines how you want your assets to be distributed after you die. You can use a Simple Will to specify things like who you want to receive your property, who should take care of your minor children, and whether you want to leave money to charity. Simple Wills are the most common type of Will. They are typically used by people who have straightforward estate planning needs and don’t own a lot of assets.

Joint Wills

A Joint Will outlines how you and another person want your assets to be distributed after you die. This type of Will is typically used by spouses or partners who want to leave their assets to each other.

However, there are some key differences between Joint Wills and Mirror Wills. For example, with a Joint Will, each person has their own separate document. Additionally, a Joint Will can’t be changed without the agreement of both parties. So before you assume that this is the best type of Will for married couples, discuss your unique situation with your significant other.

Mirror Wills

Mirror Wills are Wills that are identical in nearly every way. They’re typically used by spouses or partners who want to leave their assets to each other. If one spouse dies, the other will inherit everything. One of the main benefits of Mirror Wills is that they can be tailored specifically to your needs. For example, you can use them to specify how you want your assets to be distributed if both you and your spouse die at the same time.

Holographic Wills

What is a Holographic Will? Despite the name, it’s not a futuristic space machine. A Holographic Will is a document that is entirely handwritten and signed by the person who created it. This type of Will doesn’t need to be witnessed, which makes it convenient if you don’t have time to see a lawyer before you die. However, there are some drawbacks to Holographic Wills. They can be difficult for your loved ones to interpret. Additionally, because they’re not witnessed, there’s a risk that they could be contested in court.

Living Wills

A Living Will is a document that outlines your medical wishes in the event that you become incapacitated and are unable to communicate your decisions. Creating a Living Will enables you to specify things like whether you want to be on life support, what types of medical treatments you do or do not want to receive, and who you want to make decisions on your behalf.

Most people create Living Wills so that their loved ones won’t have to make difficult decisions about their care if they become incapacitated. It can also help to ensure that your wishes are carried out if you become unable to communicate them yourself.

Will documents: What do you need to write a Will?

Here are the forms for a Will that you’ll want to have on hand as you plan your estate:

  • Certificates of birth, death, marriage, or divorce
  • Information about mortgages, insurance policies, and property deeds
  • Specific bank account info and investment information
  • Names and contact info for your lawyers, bankers, accountants, and other agents
  • Your wishes for your funeral and burial/cremation

Discover all you need to know when writing a Will.

Examples of Wills

While Wills vary widely in their details and planning, you’ll need to include these four major components that are involved in nearly every type of Will:

  1. Name someone to be your personal representative/executor.
  2. Outline your personal details and estate information carefully.
  3. Choose specific beneficiaries for your assets (including digital assets).
  4. Sign your Will in front of non-benefactor adult witnesses for legal approval.

Types of Wills FAQ

What does a Will look like?

A legal Will is simply written words on paper. Many states in the U.S. won’t accept Wills that are not written on paper.

What is the best type of Will for married couples?

As we mentioned previously, Joint Wills and Mirror Wills are both excellent options for married couples. Sit down with your partner to discuss which type of Will works best for your situation.

What are the 4 basic types of Wills?

  • Simple Wills: These are straightforward and deal with the basics.
  • Joint Wills: These are often created by married couples.
  • Living Wills: These are beneficial to lay out your end-of-life decisions.
  • Testamentary Trust: These are useful if your beneficiaries are minors and need a trustee to manage your assets until they come of age.

Do you need an attorney for your Will?

Having an attorney to help you navigate the estate planning process is practically essential. You can technically write your Will and sign it without any professional help. However, a lawyer can explain legal terms to you and suggest the best ways for you to get the most out of your new or updated Will.

Ready to begin the Estate Planning process?

Estate and end-of-life care planning are important processes that everyone should go through. However, it’s not always easy to understand what the different types of Wills entail. If you’re ready to draft a Will, LegalShield can help. We take the complication and high expense out of basic Will writing.

Learn how you can easily get started drafting your Will with help from LegalShield’s Last Will and Testament provider lawyers today.


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