Most of us do our best to avoid even thinking about our demise, let alone plan for it. So writing a will probably isn’t on your top 10 priority list. Maybe not even your top 100. And yet it’s perhaps the single most important thing you could do for your loved ones.
Dealing with grief is stressful enough. But dealing with grief, probate, and bickering heirs is sheer torture. A will is your best chance of sparing your loved ones unnecessary pain and hassle. Plus, it will give you peace of mind, knowing your property will go where you want it to.
So What Exactly Is A Will?
A will is a legally accepted document that explains how your affairs will be sorted after your death. It states who will receive what and appoints guardians for any minors or dependants. It also appoints an executor to manage the process.
How Is A Will Written?
Writing a will may seem complicated, but it need not be a daunting task. You may choose to do it yourself if your affairs are not complicated there are many resources on writing wills available in bookstores and libraries. An internet search for “online wills” should give you several DIY will kits to choose from.
If your affairs are more complex, or if you feel unsure, you can hire a legal consultant to help. An experienced legal consultant can provide invaluable advice. Yes, it will cost you something. But much less than what your family will pay to sort your estate out if you die intestate.
What Goes Into A Will WRITING?
Depending on where you live, there may be differences in laws governing wills.
Regardless, all wills must include some common key points.
Create Your First Draft
Whether you’re doing it yourself or hiring legal help, start by drafting your first copy.
Make sure to title it appropriately. State your full name and official address. Declare that you are over 18 years old and of sound mind.
State that this is your final and only valid will. Also, state that you are not writing this will under coercion. Doing all this will ensure that your will is legally accepted.
Choose Your Executors Carefully
An executor will be your personal representative when dealing with your estate. He or she is responsible for managing and distributing your assets according to your stated wishes. People often choose a close friend or family member as their executor, but consider carefully.
If your estate is complex, you may need someone with the legal and financial know-how to sort things out. You could also name joint executors, for example, your legal consultant and a trusted family member. It also makes sense to appoint an alternative person, should your first choice be unavailable.
And do be sure to check that the person you’re appointing is happy taking on the role.
Consider compensating them for the task, too, as it may not be an easy one.
If you have children under 18 or other dependants, it’s important to appoint a guardian.
It’s a good idea to choose somebody trustworthy and responsible. Consider discussing your decision with your kids and their potential guardians. Perhaps appoint a second option in case the person you selected is unable to take on the duty.
Designate Assets And Name Beneficiaries
Ultimately, a will is all about who inherits what. You need to make a list of all your assets and decide who to give them to. Some assets, such as trust funds and insurance policies, may be more complex. They may name a beneficiary, not in your will. Here is where a lawyer may come in handy.
If you want to disinherit somebody, you must mention this person in your will. You may also state the reason why, if you choose. Some places entitle the surviving spouse to 50% of the estate. Ex-spouses and their children may also have a claim. Again, legal assistance may be required here.
When you have your beneficiaries sorted, state who takes what. Be sure to use their full legal names to avoid problems. You can be very specific, and choose which beneficiary gets which item. Your will should also state how to deal with any residual legacy. This is what remains after you have bequeathed specific items.
Inheritance Tax Issues
Inheritance tax is becoming a burden to many families. Consider how to best approach this issue, depending on your jurisdiction. Legal help, many times free, is available for this.
Make Your Will Valid
You finally made yourself write that will. Now you need to make sure it’s legally valid and will not be thrown out of court.
Get It Signed
Once you are sure your will reads right, you must sign it. For your will to be valid, it must have witnesses. You will need two witnesses. They must be legal adults of sound mind, and cannot be among your beneficiaries.
Sign your will and date it in front of your chosen witnesses. They must then put their own signatures to your will.
Store It Safely
Your will needs to be kept somewhere very safe. Wherever you place it, make sure the executor knows how and where to access it.
Not An Impossible Task
Writing a will is undoubtedly an unpleasant prospect. It makes us acknowledge our own inevitable death. But writing your wishes on paper saves your family a lot of emotional pain, time, and money. It also lets you stay in control over who inherits your hard-earned assets.
With a little bit of research, you can easily write your will yourself. If that feels like it’s not for you, then reasonably-priced legal help is usually readily available.
Either way, a will is yours and your family’s best insurance against life’s uncertainties.
Having one safely tucked away will give you peace of mind.