Wills have been the dramatic vehicle in many novels and movies. In reality, a will is simply your last declaration of how you want your estate handled after your death. What you see in fiction is simply dramatic license, as an estate lawyer, like from the Yee Law Group, can explain. Here are five myths about wills from TV, movies and novels.
The Reading of the Will
At one time, the reading of the will was important to the family. Many members of society didn’t read, so it was up to the lawyer to tell the heirs who benefitted and how. The funeral would have been the place to share that information. Today, wills are filed with the court and made public record. Anyone who wants to find the information can.
Oral Wills Matter
The dying declaration or deathbed confession is another dramatic device that you’ll find in movies and books. In reality, most states have very clear rules about making an oral declaration as part of your will. You can’t wait until you’re dying to give your verbal wishes to your family unless you meet strict conditions. For example, if you lived in New York and were military going off to conflict. You should plan your will.
Stealing Inheritances Is Illegal
A valid will isn’t one that is just signed by you. You need to make your will while you’re of sound mind and not under influence. In “Superman Returns” Lex Luthor gets an older woman to sign over her estate to him as she dies. It makes for a good story, but most probate courts would question the will’s validity before allowing Luthor to reap the rewards.
You Will Have to Pay Taxes to Receive Your Inheritance
While it’s true that there are taxes after death, it’s rare that you have to pay taxes to receive the inheritance. In most states, inheritance taxes only apply after a very large inheritance. Many times, direct relatives, like a spouse or child, won’t have any taxes. There may be other financial obligations of the estate, but taxes are the least of the worries.
You Can Leave a Will with Catches
“Brewster’s Millions,” “The Bachelor” and “Scavenger Hunt” are just a few of the dozens of movies in which the testator, the person who writes the will, makes the heirs jump through hoops to receive the money. Technically speaking, you can make the inheritance conditional, but you can’t demand that the heirs violate public policy or laws.
Talk to a lawyer about your will to protect your heirs.