Writing a will can be difficult. These tips will help you prepare your will and ensure that your legacy is secure for future generations.
Unfortunately, many Americans are putting off their living will. According to surveys, roughly 60% of adults have not written a will or done any estate planning.
Every person has a different reason for punting on their will. Some are afraid to talk about death, while others feel like they are inevitable.
Whatever the reason is, punting on your will can lead to a tumultuous situation. Important things like guardianship and finances are left to the court to decide. Things can get ugly between family members under this scenario.
Read on for a comprehensive guide on writing a will. Explore tips on will preparation and how to secure your legacy for the next generation.
Acquire the Supplies
The first step in the process is acquiring will supplies. Whether you have a lawyer writing your will or doing it on your own, it all starts with the proper supplies.
There is high-quality will paper to print your final wishes on. Some people require dividers to break up the various investments and assets they have.
Also, testamentary envelopes are a popular product to hold these important documents in. Lastly, there are high-quality covers for documents like deeds and manuscripts.
Collect Your Important Documents
The next step in the process is collecting all of your important documents. Of course, this includes items like social security card and birth certificate. For married couples, a copy of your marriage certificate is necessary.
Once the basics are collected, it is time to collect documents showing your ownership of certain assets. Your mortgage deed or vehicle titles are perfect examples.
Other important documentation includes your life and health insurance information. Your loved ones will need a list of bank accounts and other financial information. This should include any stock investments or retirement accounts.
Many people put thought into their funeral or burial before death. If there is a plot of land or funeral home pre-paid, this information needs to be included as well.
Decide on an Executor
When you pass on, someone is left behind to execute your living will. This person is legally referred to as the executor.
They are legally responsible for significant tasks like closing debts and distributing assets. For example, the executor may need to oversee the sale of any real estate properties.
The executor may need to use proceeds from the sale to close out any debts. If there is money remaining, the executor distributes it to the beneficiaries named in the will.
Being an executor is a major responsibility and comes with a significant amount of work. Some people deny the role or are not capable of fulfilling it.
It is important to name a co-executor or alternate in the event this happens. Otherwise, the judge presiding over your probate hearing may choose an executor instead.
This is an especially important step for couples with adolescent or dependent children. What happens to your loved ones in the event of an unexpected passing? Who will your children live with?
These questions need to be addressed in your will. There may be a grandparent, aunt, or uncle that you want to take in your children. It is wise to discuss these plans with them during will preparation so they are not caught off guard.
Leaving guardianship unaddressed may lead to chaos after an unexpected passing. In many cases, a legal battle ensues, with different family members arguing over the children. This is not healthy for them, as they are grieving their parents’ death.
The decision of guardianship is then left to a judge to decide. You can avoid all of this painful fighting by adding a guardianship section to your will.
Lay Out Your Assets and Debts
Now that the question of guardianship is resolved, it is time to move on to your financial situation. Will preparation and estate planning require a complete listing of your assets and debts.
This includes major items like real estate properties, boats, or vehicles. If you financed the items and do not own them outright, the equity in these assets is definitely a consideration.
You are going to need to list out any checking or savings accounts. Other financial accounts, like a 401k or IRA, also need identification.
Some people have other accounts, like a 529 college savings plan. Regardless of the account type, it needs to be listed to help settle your estate.
Also included in this step are any debts. This includes home or car loans, credit cards, any other type of financing.
Listing out debts is crucial, as debt collectors are certain to petition the probate court for their share. When an asset is liquidated, debts need to be paid off before any financial distribution takes place.
There may be physical assets to consider as well. Items like jewelry, fine art, and furniture are examples of physical assets to consider during will preparation.
Signing the Will
There are several steps necessary to make a will official. Of course, you need to sign the document to make it legally binding.
However, you also need witnesses present and they need to sign the document as well. Depending on the state you reside in, there may be eligibility requirements for witnesses. For instance, witnesses may not be eligible if they inherit anything in the event of your passing.
You should put some thought into witnesses. If there are any legal issues after your passing, a witness may be asked to testify before a judge.
Finalizing the Will
Now that the will is signed, it is time to store it. Choose a safe and secure place that is known to close family members.
Tell your loved ones where they can get a copy of your will. Your lawyer will retain a copy and represent you after passing.
A growing trend is including an explanatory letter. This is a letter that details your thought process and is a great way to say good bye to loved ones.
Best Practices for Writing a Will
Now, you are ready to start drafting a will. There are many steps included and it requires a lot of careful thought.
However, your family will be better off for it. Important considerations like guardianship and financial distribution are now covered.
If you are writing a will, and need supplies, contact us today to speak with a sales associate.