A living will is perhaps the most important legal document that you will ever write. This document decides what happens to your family and assets in the event of your untimely passing.
Despite this fact, more than half of Americans do not have a will. They recognize the importance of things like estate planning but fail to see it through.
The reasons why many fail to publish a will are mixed. Some do not want to incur the cost, while others are uncomfortable talking about death.
However, a living will is far too important to put off. Read on to learn how to draft a will. Explore tips for allocating personal belongings and assets.
What Are Some Things to Consider?
Thinking about writing a will and estate planning can be overwhelming. There are many different factors to consider when completing an estate planning form.
Other considerations are overlooked until pointed out by a legal professional. Here are some major items to consider in a will:
More important than asset distribution is the fate of your family. What will happen to your spouse or children if you passed away?
Many people think that their assets will automatically be distributed to their spouse upon death. This is not necessarily true as the answer depends on state law.
If you and your spouse both tragically pass, the fate of your children is unclear. A living will appoint a guardian to care for your children.
Failure to draft a will could lead to extensive custody battles between surviving family members. A prolonged court case and the uncertainty involved is not healthy for children who just lost their parents.
After children, the next biggest question is what happens to your property. For the vast majority of people, the property is their greatest source of wealth. There could be a substantial amount of equity built into the house.
An estate plan provides instructions for the distribution of your properties. Some living wills transfer the title to a spouse, child, or another family member. Others provide instructions for sale of the home with subsequent distribution of any monies earned.
Some deceased individuals own investment properties in addition to their primary residence. This makes estate planning even more important and complex. Now, the living will must address multiple properties and distribute these assets accordingly.
Another major consideration for your will is how to distribute your finances. You likely have balances in your checking or savings account that needs to be allocated.
Other forms of financial assets are stocks, bonds, or CDs. Some individuals have a pension account without a named beneficiary. There are possible financial accounts and each one needs to be distributed.
A living will also address what to do with personal belongings. Over a lifetime, people collect many things of financial or sentimental value. These items need to be distributed just like a property.
Some examples of personal belongings include jewelry or collectible items. Other examples are furniture, vehicles, or a boat.
What Is the First Step in the Process?
Now that you have taken stock of your priorities, it is time to kick off the process. The first step is determining how you will complete the will.
The easiest selection is to find a legal professional to help you. This choice carries the least amount of risk for surviving family members. The downside is that it will cost more money than doing it yourself.
An alternative to hiring a lawyer is using software to craft your own will. The negative aspect of this approach is that your situation may be too complex for DIY software.
Who Is the Executor?
The executor is responsible for carrying out your wishes as defined by the will. You will call out the executor in your will, giving them legal authority to complete this task.
Selecting an executor is not something that should be taken lightly. Take pains to carefully select a trustworthy and reliable person. Otherwise, the distribution of your assets is at risk and your family could end up in court.
Your executor is different than granting power of attorney. The executor is simply following your wishes, while the power of attorney gives that person the legal authority to make decisions. You can also name someone to have power of attorney in the event you are incapacitated.
Do You Need Witnesses?
The will is not complete without signatures of the witnesses. The number of witnesses required is determined by state law.
Most states require two witnesses to sign the will. There are some states that require up to three witnesses to sign.
The author of the will and all witnesses need to be present at the time of signature. They cannot have a stake in the outcome of the will. In the event of a legal disagreement over the will, a judge may call these witnesses in to testify.
Where Is the Will Stored?
If you choose to hire a legal firm, your lawyer will maintain a copy of your will. For those that choose the DIY alternative, storage of the will is called into question.
Your will serves little purpose if it is locked away in a mysterious filing drawer. This means that you will need to inform the family of its location. It is also a good idea to share its location with the executor of the will.
Can You Update the Will?
Of course, things happen in life to change the decisions driving your will. For instance, perhaps you had another child or are going through a divorce.
You may roll in your grave if your ex received all of your assets. Instead, try to revisit your will every few years and update it if necessary.
A Recap of How to Draft a Will
Losing someone is incredibly difficult. Losing someone who has not drafted a will is even harder. Loved ones may spend up to a year in court litigating your death.
Instead, hire a lawyer or draft a will using DIY software. If you enjoyed this article about how to draft a will, check out our blog for more great content.