Regardless of how old a person is, estate planning should not be shelved for too long. It’s imperative for those with children or with a high net worth to settle their estate before the inevitable happens. It should be done with haste. In the event of incapacitation or death, this prevents family disputes about inheritance. Additionally, a will enables a person to look out for their family even after death.
Making a will is an opportunity to get affairs in order. Despite the hesitation to do anything related to death, making a will allows you to control these assets after you pass away. To help you get started on drafting yours, here are some things you should know about making a will.
What Is a Will?
A last will and testament, or called will, is a legal document that dictates a person’s final wishes. This usually pertains to what to do with their assets once they’ve passed on, whether the deceased will split these to their family members or donate to charity.
When You Should Make Your Last Will and Testament
If a person is married, has children, a business, or has many properties, it’s wise to have a will as soon as possible. At least this way, the will-maker has some control over what happens after their death. They can also ensure that their family and loved ones can have financial security.
A will is made while the person is still alive, and the instructions that come with it will only be followed once they have passed away. Included in it is the name of the executor, whose job is to carry out the wishes of the deceased. The probate court usually supervises the executor to ensure that they do what the deceased has dictated in their will. Likewise, if the deceased fails to write a will, the probate court will decide who will receive the assets. Usually, these go to the immediate family members of the deceased.
Types of Wills
There’s a wide variety of wills, but the one you should settle for should best suit your situation. Regardless of its type, a self-proving affidavit should be notarized and attached to the will to certify that the will-maker and witnesses have properly signed the will.
A common will is often used by those with a small and uncomplicated estate. This is called a Simple or Statutory Will. This is inexpensive to prepare, straightforward, and easy to draft (even without an attorney, though that’s not recommended). However, one should not rely on Statutory Will’s validity, as some states don’t recognize them as valid.
Another common option is called a Pour-Over Will. The will-maker will name only one beneficiary called a Trust. The assets are then are “poured over” to the trust after the will-maker’s death. The trust is mainly there to avoid having multiple probate processes to accommodate each beneficiary. Having a Trust is more convenient, which makes the transferring of assets to the designated beneficiaries smoother. The trust then distributes the assets after the will-maker’s death according to their will.
On the other hand, a Holographic Will is a handwritten will that had no witnesses when the will-maker wrote it and signed it. Despite being written in the will-maker’s handwriting and signed by them, the will is not reliable. Due to the lack of standards imposed by state law, holographic wills are vulnerable to issues. For this will to be valid, a requirement of at least three witnesses should testify that the handwriting in the will is the will-maker’s.
Lastly, an Oral Will is a spoken will made in front of a witness. On their deathbed, the will-maker will share how they want their assets distributed after their passing.
Select Assets To Include in the Will
Before writing your will, you have to make sure that your possessions are accounted for. List down all your assets like properties, accounts, life insurance policies, and more. After that’s done, decide who’ll inherit these after you’ve passed. To make the draft, be sure to consult with an estate planning attorney for vulnerabilities under state laws.
Choose Your Beneficiaries
Beneficiaries are usually family members, relatives, or closest of kin. Beneficiaries can also include people who aren’t necessarily blood-related, like close friends or charity groups you care about.
It’s important to be clear and specific when dividing properties, as this may confuse and even conflict among family members. Moreover, it’s best to be clear from the start, especially when there would be no way to clarify your instructions when that time comes. On the other hand, sharing your plans with your beneficiaries ahead of time will prevent future misunderstandings.
Choose Your Executor
The executor is someone who will be legally responsible for carrying out what’s stated in your will. They will see that your properties and asset will be distributed accordingly, pay outstanding debts, pay estate taxes, and other financial obligations. The executor should be someone you trust, and you feel confident in fulfilling your wishes in the manner you instructed. Often, spouses, siblings, and children are assigned to be the executor. However, there’s a downside to this. Inheritance disputes among family members may arise, especially when it comes to diving properties. Additionally, this may be extra weight on them as they grieve. Consider hiring an accountant or an attorney for unbiased, professional, and reliable execution of your will to prevent any confusion or disagreement.