Writing a will is important during any stage of your life. You’ll delegate things like guardianship and how your finances should be divided amongst your family. Also, you can keep your family from fighting and help them focus on the important things. Here are some of the basics you need to know about writing a will that will last even when the unexpected happens.
Note: This article is for educational purposes only and not to be taken as professional legal advice. Please consult with your attorney for more information.
Self-made will vs. having a lawyer write a will for you
Many people don’t think they need a lawyer when writing a will. In some cases, they are right. If you don’t have multiple children or multiple assets you probably can get away with writing your own will. However, even if you plan on using an online service or writing it down on a piece of paper you may still not have all of your basics covered.
For starters, you must be thorough to a nauseating degree and precise in allocating assets. This can be hard to manage as you’ll want to be fair but also avoid nuance. Even if you plan on giving everything to your spouse, it is still prudent for you to consider writing a will. Cover things like guardianship of children and picking who will receive leftover retirement funds. There are some drawbacks to writing a will yourself. Mainly, that it can be convoluted and cause pressure between family members, especially if you give a family member power over your estate.
Hiring a lawyer to write a will for you is beneficial to you because it takes some of the stress of writing a will out of the process. With a lawyer, your assets can be divided in a clear and concise way. I’d also like to issue a word of caution. After the death of a loved one, emotions can be riled and families can tear themselves apart fighting over a will. Going through this process with a lawyer can make certain that possessions of yours are delivered to the right hand.
In addition, it also protects your family from blaming one another should someone not get exactly what they want. They can’t blame a brother or a sister for the house when it’s already been settled years ago. Writing a will is no small task, and if you have multiple assets and have accumulated a sizeable estate in your lifetime it is imperative that you work with an estate attorney.
Choose Your beneficiaries and divide out the estate
A beneficiary is anyone you designate your estate and assets to in a will. Essentially, it’s the people that are going to receive your stuff when you pass away. It may be tempting to try and divide things equally among your children and family. instead of doing that, talk with them first about any item they want. Talk to them about how you will be dividing your assets and let them know beforehand how you planned your will. That way, there won’t be surprises that disrupt your family other than your passing.
If you die without writing a will your family can be confused about the dividing of assets and what you would have wanted. This is also the time to figure out guardianship over your children. It’s best to talk with those you have in mind before putting them down in your will as relationships tend to change over time. The best way to split your estate fairly is to be upfront and thorough about your decisions.
Also, make sure that your ex-spouses don’t have any claim to your assets. You may think that your ex-spouse will give all of your money to your children, but that may not be the case. Get it in writing where your money is going and how it is going to get there. You also want to choose an executor over your estate. This person or entity is tasked with making sure that your will is executed. You select a family, friend, lawyer, or bank to do this on your behalf. Although a bank and lawyer will charge you a fee that can range up to 2% on all assets. However, it does make it easier for your family.
You’ll need a witness
Regardless if you do your will yourself or with an estate attorney, you’ll need a witness to sign the document. the amount of witnesses and who those witnesses are varies from state-to-state. While writing a will, you’ll want to find multiple people to be your witnesses and have them sign the document. In some states, this may require a lawyer or a judge so do your research. Don’t forget this important step as it will legitimize your will to the law.
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