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Frequently Asked Questions - Will Information

Frequently Asked Questions - Will Information

Q:  If a short certificate is needed to liquidate or receive certain assets of a decedent, can I purchase one from the Register of Wills?
A:  Once an individual or institution has court authorization to take possession of any assets, a short certificate may be required before those assets can be released.  As many short certificates as necessary may be purchased from the Register of Wills office after formal opening of and / or probate of will.

Q:  If I am named in a will, can I simply assume responsibilities to carry out the terms of the will?
A:  Before any individual or institution is legally eligible to take possession of the assets of an estate, he or she must have authorization by the Court to do so.  The Register of Wills grants this authority in a document called "Letters of Testamentary" after the will has been probated (or proven to be authentic).

Q:  Is my will on file with the Register of Wills?
A:  Living persons do not have wills registered or retained by the Register of Wills, original wills are usually kept secure by the attorney who prepared the will or placed in a vault of a trust department, or in the safe deposit box belonging to the testator / testatrix (person who wrote the will).

Q:  Must a will be witnessed?
A:  No, but two (2) witnesses, subscribing or non-subscribing, must appear at the Register of Wills office at the time probate to prove the validity of the will.  Subscribing witnesses may appear before a notary.  A will witnessed by a subscribing witness can better survive a will contest because the testator's legal capacity to make a will is presumed.  Wills can be made self-proven if the testator signs proper acknowledgements and affidavits and witnesses at the time of execution proving will eliminate the need for the witnesses appearing at the Register of Wills office.

Q:  Should everyone have a will?
A:  Yes, everyone should have a will.  This will guarantee that your lifetime accumulations are given to those persons, charities, or institutions whom you wish to benefit.

Q:  What is a will?
A:  A will is any written document, signed at the end by a person at least the age of eighteen (18) years of age and of sound mind which directs the manor of distribution if anything owned by the writer at the time of death.  The will should name an executor whose job it is to probate the will after death and carry out its instructions.  A will may also appoint guardians of estates of minors who may receive property under the will.

Q:  What occurs when there is no will?
A:  If there is no will, an administrator is appointed by the court to handle the estate, individuals, or institutions entitled to administer an estate are established by law.  The Register of Wills grants this authority in a document called "Letters of Administration".  The decedents estate is then distributed according to intestate law.  These intestacy laws name the beneficiaries and amount to which they are entitled.

Q:  When is a will effective?
A:  A will is effective at the death of the testator.  It may be revoked at any time prior to death by a will or codicil later in or destruction of the will itself by the testator.  The will which may be probated is the last will signed by the testator.

Q:  When should a will be changed?
A:  The disposition of one's property is determined by many personal factors including family, personal relationships, and interests in charities.  A will should be changed when those relationships change.