Step-By-Step Guide To Making Last Wills
Believe it or not, creating a last will and testament is one of the most neglected things for most Americans. Talking about the day of your death may be frightening to you but you should be prepared for the inevitable things that might happen in the future.
For some people, making a last will might be expensive or time-consuming but in fact, it’s not. If you are going to make a will as early as possible, you will prevent family disputes and you can be sure that all your properties will be left to those people that you care and love the most.
Decide Which Type Of Will You Need
There are a lot of types of last will – simple, joint, testamentary trust, living, pour-over, deathbed, online, nuncupative, and holographic will.
Most people prefer simple will but for those who have a lot of properties, who own a business/businesses, a living trust is better. However, an estate attorney will be of great help on this type of will.
Decide Which Type Of Assets To Include In Your Will
When you decide to make your last will, you should list all your properties and estate together with the people that you would want to be the beneficiaries of those assets when the time comes that you already pass away. Your list can include:
- Properties (Home, vehicles, and other estates that you own).
- Bank and Retirement accounts.
- Life Insurance Policies.
- Pets – Many families have pets and they are treated as part of the family but under the law, they are considered property. That is why you should appoint a trusted caretaker for them when creating your last will.
- Family Heirlooms or Other Personal Items – For those people who have sentimental items, you should also name a trusted person in your will to take care of these valuable things when you pass away.
Choose Who Will Receive Your Assets
After making a list of all of your properties, it’s now time to choose the people that will receive each of those. Your beneficiaries can simply be your spouse and your children if you are married. But it can also include extended family, friends, and charity.
Once you created your last will, you should keep in mind that being specific can really make a difference. Especially during the difficult time of your passing, your loved ones will be free from any disputes as everything is specified in your will.
It is also very important to remember that the beneficiaries you have on your will cannot nullify the name written on the deed or title. For instance, if you and your spouse bought a house and your names are on the title, you cannot give that property to someone else in your last will.
Choose Your Executor
The person who will read your will is the executor of your will. The executor will be the one to pay all of your debts, close all your credit cards, and manage all your accounts.
In naming your executor, you should choose someone who is dependable, organized, and honest as this will be a complicated job for them. Most people hire an accountant or attorney for this job.
If you are going to name an executor, be sure to inform them before putting their name on your will to know if they would willingly take the responsibility. In case your first choice of executor cannot perform the task, you can also have a backup executor just in case.
Choose Guardians For Your Minor Children
If you still have young kids, you can appoint a legal guardian for them. In the event that you pass away, your spouse will have sole custody of your children.
However, if both of you die at the same time, the guardian that you appointed for your minor children will be the one to look after them until they reach legal age.
If it happens that you die even before making your last will, the court will appoint a guardian for your kids. If there will be no volunteers, your children will become wards of the state or may enter a foster care system.
Make A Donation To Charity
This is optional but you can also add a non-profit organization as a beneficiary in your last will. You can leave them some of your properties and even part of your insurance policy.
Sign Your Will In Front Of Witnesses To Make It Valid
This is an important step you need to remember. After finishing your last will, you must sign it with your own handwriting in front of two witnesses to make it legally valid. You can’t get your executors, guardians, or beneficiaries as your witnesses but you can have your neighbor, roommates, or other friends do that.
Store Your Will In A Safe Place
After signing your last will in front of your witnesses, you should secure that document in a safe place. It can be somewhere in your house that is fireproof, in a safety deposit box, or in your attorney’s office. You should also include other important documents here like the titles or deeds of your properties, your insurance policies, funeral instructions, and passwords.
Tell Your Executor Or Guardian About Your Will & How They Can Access It
Your will is an important legal document that will be beneficial to your family if they can find it. You should inform your executors and guardians where these documents are and how to access them in case you pass away.
Update Your Will Whenever There’s A Big Change In Your Life
You should update your will every 5 years or whenever there’s a big change in your life. These events can be:
- Getting married or divorce.
- Having new kids in the family.
- Buying a house.
- Moving states (Because will requirements change from one state to another).
- If one of your executors or guardians passed away.
What Should You Not Put In Last Wills?
As much as you wanted to prepare all of the things needed before passing away, there are also a few things to consider not to put in your last will to avoid legal conflicts. This includes business interests, personal wishes and desires, coverage for a beneficiary with special needs, anything you don’t want to go through probate, and certain properties.
These things can also be included in your last will but there are actually a few reasons why you wouldn’t want to put this in your will. Wills are probated in court and it can really take a long time. The succession of your business will also be contested. To prevent any problems in the future, consult an attorney to find other ways for your business succession.
Personal Wishes & Desires
Your last will undergo a probate and a court settlement process and if you have personal wishes for your funeral or final arrangements some will have to say that it should not be included in the will. Instead of including your specific and personal desires in your will, you can just leave your loved ones a letter of instruction. Though informal, this document can be used to inform your final wishes to your loved ones.
Coverage For A Beneficiary With Special Needs
In the case that you have a family member with special needs, putting them in your last will may cause conflict on their qualification for government benefits. It is recommended to create a “Special Needs Trust” where you can still make an arrangement to support your loved ones with special needs without risking the benefits they received from the government.
Anything You Don’t Want Going Through Probate
Last will and testament always undergo probate and it usually takes months. There’s this scenario called “intestate” wherein the court decides how to divide the properties and how to pay off all the debts of the deceased person. Those who want to avoid probate can choose to transfer their properties into a trust fund.
Certain Types Of Property
It is easy to say that you should put everything in your last will because you spend all your life just to achieve all of those. But there are times when it’s more beneficial for your loved ones to just leave some properties out of your will. Including property held within a trust, property with beneficiary designations, jointly-owned property, property that you would want to leave for your beloved pet, and those gifts with conditions or specific instructions.
Weiner Law Last Wills Services
Making a last will and testament is a bit uncomfortable for many. Thinking that one day you will be leaving all of our properties behind and all of the things that you worked hard for is really frightening.
But it will also be great if you will prepare your will in advance. For your loved ones and for your peace of mind as well. You will be sure that everything will be in place before you die.
At Weiner Law, there is a team of skilled and trained professionals that will cater to all your needs. You will never have to worry about your assets because they will go to the right people as you wish.