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Don't Wait Like Valerie Harper to Write Your Will

If you haven't drafted a will yet, what are you waiting for? Actress Valerie Harper answered that question earlier this week, and her experience offers some lessons for us all.

Harper, 74, was diagnosed with inoperable cancer last March. At the time of her diagnosis, Harper's doctors said that she may only have a few months to live.

Surprisingly, Harper told radio host Howard Stern that it wasn't until after her cancer diagnosis that she finally decided to put together a will, ABC News reports. Why did she wait so long?

5 Legal Tips If You're Fighting Over an Estate

Even if there's a will in place, families may still end up fighting over an estate after a loved one passes.

While most people think that the only way to settle estate battles is to go to probate court, there are ways to quash an estate battle without resorting to probate.

Here are five legal tips to consider if you're fighting over an estate.

Should You Include Burial Plans in Your Will?

Besides divvying up your estate to your beneficiaries, there are several other things to think about when executing a will.

One consideration is whether to include a burial plan in your will -- letting your executor know your wishes for your funeral. While including a burial plan in your will may seem like a good idea, your wishes may not be carried out exactly the way you want because your body isn't considered "property" for estate planning purposes.

So what can you do to convey your burial plan preferences?

Legal How-To: Omitting Relatives From Your Will

If you don't have the best relationship with some of your relatives, omitting those family members from your will is one option to consider.

One example comes from late fashion designer L'Wren Scott. She left her entire estate to her boyfriend, Rolling Stone lead singer Mick Jagger. Noticeably absent from her will are her two siblings.

So if you don't want your relatives to inherit your estate upon your death, here's a general overview of how to omit them from your will:

5 Legal 'Spring Cleaning' Tips That Can Pay Off

Rejoice! The first day of spring is finally here. Besides tidying up your home or office, you may also want to consider some legal "spring cleaning" tasks as well.

As seasons change and time moves on, so will your legal needs -- especially when it comes to updating your important legal documents.

With that in mind, here are five legal spring cleaning tips that can potentially pay off:

Legal How-To: Becoming a Guardian

Legal guardians can be appointed to take care of children and incapacitated adults. So how does one become a legal guardian?

Becoming a legal guardian requires a court order. Once the guardianship relationship is established, the guardian will be legally responsible for the care and supervision of minors or adults who are unable to care for themselves.

Here are the basic steps toward becoming a guardian:

Should You Scrap Your Will and Start Over?

When is it wise to scrap your will and start over?

As you know, a will reflects a person's wishes for how his or her estate will be handled after death. But because many unforeseen events can happen after a person writes a will, in some situations it may be best to revoke an old will and draft a new one.

Here are some general guidelines to consider:

How Many Trustees Can a Trust Have?

When creating a trust, how many trustees can you have?

Trusts are estate planning tools that can be used to manage how a person's property is distributed after death, without going through probate. Trustees play an important role in protecting the beneficiary's (or beneficiaries') interests.

So how many trustees should you have? To understand the answer to that question, you'll want to have a better understanding of a trustee's role.

Do You Need to Notarize a Will?

Do wills need to be notarized? Since notaries are often useful in giving legal effect to other official documents, people often assume the same is true with wills.

The truth, however, may be surprising: Although state laws on wills differ, you do not need to notarize a will for it to be valid.

So where does a notary fit in to making a will?

What If a Beneficiary Dies Before the Will Maker?

After you write a will, what happens if one of your beneficiaries dies before you do? This question pops up from time to time in our FindLaw Answers Wills, Trusts, and Estates forum.

In most states, when a beneficiary dies before the will maker, the gift originally left for the beneficiary may go to the beneficiary's heirs, if the beneficiary is a relative of the will maker. But if the deceased beneficiary isn't related by blood to the will maker, then the gift could potentially lapse -- meaing that the beneficiary's heirs won't be able to receive it.

Fortunately, most states have anti-lapse statutes that allow a beneficiary's heirs to still receive the gift even if the beneficiary dies before the will maker.