A will is a written statement of your intentions for how your assets will be divided when you pass away. Nobody enjoys discussing death, especially when it’s their own. However, if you don’t make arrangements for how you wish to divide your property and other material assets while you’re still alive, you risk leaving your mourning family with unnecessary conflicts and arguments to resolve.
Keep in mind that a living will, power of attorney, or personal directive, which specifies the degree of medical care you want to receive before you pass away and who can handle your legal and financial affairs, are not the same as the last will.
Some people put off writing a will until they get married or start a family. A will is important even if you are single, especially if you want your assets to go to a particular family member, friend, or charity. Although challenging, creating the perfect will is not impossible. Here are ten tips to get you started.
1 – Name an executor.
When a property owner dies, their assets are reviewed by a probate court. This court analyzes whether or not the deceased person has a valid will. After you pass away, your executor initiates the probate process.
Since the role involves inventorying all the assets and property owned by the decedent, identifying heirs and beneficiaries, and distributing assets per the court’s final ruling, being an executor is a responsible and demanding position.
Choose carefully. Your executor should be someone you trust and who is happy to take on the role. A good idea is to ask them before writing your will. Pick someone to serve as a backup executor as well, in case the primary one is unavailable.
2 – Name a guardian for children under the age of 18.
If you’re married and have underage children, you would probably want your spouse to serve as your executor but don’t make them the default executor. Neither of you would have a living executor if you died together in a plane crash or car accident.
For this reason, it’s always wise to name a guardian who shares the same values as you and whom you and your children can trust to abide by your instructions.
That said, if your spouse has already passed away and you’ve not designated a guardian in your will, and you die leaving children under 18, the court will appoint a guardian on your behalf.
If you are not married but have children with your partner, you might not even be granted guardianship. When an unmarried man passes away, his unmarried female partner automatically gets custody of their kids, but when an unmarried woman passes away, her unmarried male significant other does not.
To solve this issue, you should name each other as guardians in your wills.
3 – Name the beneficiaries.
Beneficiaries are the people who will inherit your possessions after your death. Thus, it’s essential to list everyone on the document. These beneficiaries could include your spouse, kids, friends, relatives, and others. You should also mention their full names so that there is no confusion.
4 – Include everything in your will.
It doesn’t matter if some of the things you own are not valuable in monetary terms. They are still precious to you, and you want to ensure they land in the right hands after your passing.
You might want to give a certain person the 6-movie collection of Marvel’s The Avengers DVDs, an entire bookshelf of rare first edition books by notable people, or perhaps you have a vintage vase collection that you wouldn’t give to just any family member.
5 – Be clear and specific.
You may want to bequeath a specific cash amount, a piece of jewellery, a family heirloom, a painting, a car, or any other specific type of asset. Spell it out in your will to avoid any confusion and disagreements. Include other items in your will for quick access, such as account numbers, security boxes, and anything else of the kind.
6 – State residuary bequests.
What happens if your executor distributes your estate’s assets per the many bequests you’ve made in your will, but there is still some cash, investments, jewellery, and property left? You can gift them through a residual bequest or legacy.
After all other distributions have been made according to your instructions, what remains of your estate is what is known as a residual legacy.
If you do not mention who the “residue” goes to, the rules of intestacy will decide how the remaining assets will be shared out. Therefore, you should state who inherits what in your will before it’s too late.
7 – Mention where everything resides.
Not only should you name your selected executors and list all of your valuable possessions in your will, but you should also tell them where to find each thing. Describe, in your will, the location of any storage unit or safe house where you’ve been keeping your things.
8 – Update your will if and when necessary.
Go over your will once every two years. You may have to update the information regarding a beneficiary if they pass away before you or you have a change of heart and need to revise your gift or bequest to them.
9 – Sign off the document.
Once your will is complete, you should sign and date it in the presence of two reliable witnesses. Make sure they are at least 18 years old and are not beneficiaries. Ask them to sign and date it too.
10 – Keep it in a safe place.
U.S. laws do not require you to register your last will (and testament) after you write it. However, you can register basic information about your will, including its location with a few states and some electronic will-making companies.
In some jurisdictions, you can also store the original will with the probate court. Many people store their wills in a safety deposit box and keep a copy at home. You can do the same, but remember to tell your executor where you kept the original document.
It is vital to prepare a will if you don’t want there to be chaos and disputes after your passing. Writing a will requires extreme attention to detail since the right people must receive your belongings.
Besides being precise and specific, the document must present a list of all the assets and property of every kind, nature, character, description, and a lowdown on how everything is to be distributed amongst the heirs and beneficiaries.
Choosing a trustworthy executor and guardian for minor children is equally important. If you’re unsure how to write a will, we suggest you consult a lawyer. They can advise you better on how you can distribute your estate equitably.