Creating an estate plan will protect your assets after your passing, as well as protect your heirs’ financial security and well-being. The journey to completing your estate plan is filled with many different steps and processes, including the creation of a will. Once you understand the difference between a will and an estate, it is important to begin the process of creating a will.
First, decide if you will hire a lawyer or use online software. Due to the differences in state laws and the requirements needed to make your will a legally binding document, hiring a lawyer who specializes in estate planning will ensure the document is prepared correctly.
The next step in writing a will is to name your beneficiaries. If you hire an attorney, the forms they provide will have space for you to fill in the beneficiaries. However, if your family structure is complicated it is a good idea to gather your thoughts and decide your beneficiaries in advance. In uncomplicated situations, children or remaining family members are typically chosen as the beneficiaries.
After naming your beneficiaries, you will need to designate someone to carry out the wishes stated in your will, called the “executor”. While the person you choose is up to your discretion, it is recommended to choose an intelligent and reasonable family member or friend. Similarly, if you choose one of your children and there are foreseeable issues between your children, it is often advised to pick a neutral party instead. If you choose your lawyer as your executor, there is typically a small fee associated with the task. Be sure to discuss these fees upfront.
If you have children under the age of 18, your next step will be to appoint a guardian for your kids. While you are not required by law to seek the appointed guardian’s permission before naming them in your will, we recommend asking your preferred guardian first. The reason for this is simple, if the time comes for them to assume guardianship, they can always decline, and then the court will appoint a guardian.
Next, designate your possessions to the intended recipients. It is important to be specific, as well as clearly name anyone who will not be receiving any of your possessions. Situations may arise where you are giving one family member more than another member, and it is important to differentiate why this is happening. Adding a letter to your will with any additional comments or requests may clear confusion or help your loved ones understand the thought you put into your will.
Lastly, you must have witnesses to sign the will. State laws vary on the requirements for witnesses so we recommend calling an experience estate planning lawyer in your area to understand what qualifies as a witness on your will. Keep several copies of your wills, preferably in safe places like a fireproof safe or a safety deposit box at your bank.
Writing a will is one of the most important steps you can take in protecting your assets and completing your estate plan. While there are many options available to complete your will at home, seeking the help of a professional is also recommended. After you have created your legally binding will, you will want to evaluate it every 4 to 5 years and make updates as needed. If you are ready to begin this process and are looking for an experience estate planning professional to provide assistance creating your will, contact Odle Law today and set up at time for your free consultation meeting.