Kinds of Wills

Here’s a brief glossary of terms used in the law for various kinds of wills:

Simple will. A will that just provides for the outright distribution of assets for an uncomplicated estate.

Testamentary trust will. A will that sets up one or more trusts for some of your estate assets to go to after you die.

Pourover will. A will that leaves some of your assets in a trust that you had already established before your death.

Holographic will. A will that is unwitnessed and in the testator’s handwriting. About 20 states recognize the validity of such wills.

Oral will (also called nuncupative will). A will that is spoken, not written down. A few states permit these.

Joint will. One document that covers both a husband and wife (or any two people). These are often a big mistake and are especially inadvisable for estates larger than $675,000.

Living will. Not really a will at all–since it has force while you are still alive and doesn’t dispose of property–but often executed at the same time you make your will. Tells doctors and hospitals whether you wish life support in the event you are terminally ill or, as a result of accident or illness, cannot be restored to consciousness.