Writing a will is a very avoided subject and action among many in this world. Not only does it bring to life the fact that we will inevitably meet our doom and leave our loved ones behind, but it also actualizes that we have to assign our worldly possessions to those same loved ones. With that in mind, there is more to a will than just handing over your material objects out to others, it is also about putting your final wishes to paper so as your family can show their final act of respect by following them.
Many Americans over the age of 50 do not have a will, not saying that is the cutoff point for life, but they really should consider creating one in order to make the proper arrangements. Issue is, since making a will has become such a taboo thought, not a lot of people understand exactly what it involves or how to write a will. Included with this posting is a well-organized chunk of information that will aid anyone who wishes to go about writing a will, and the steps best taken for it.
The Purpose of a Will
First off, to answer one of the most common based questions, what is a will? Simply put, a will is a legal document which the testator declares who will take responsibility for your estate after your pass. Your estate consists of real estate, expensive possessions, and personal small items of self-worth and sentimental value. The executor, the person appointed your estate manager, is also charged with the responsibility of following through with your final wishes.
Furthermore, the will also is able to appoint guardianship for minor children and/or other dependents. Also you can express your wishes on the possession of specific items to certain individuals or parties. There are some types of property that cannot be transferred via a will. Certain insurance policies, retirement accounts, and agreements aren’t covered by wills. Usually, a beneficiary is assigned with the policy was taken out or accounts opened. Those should but made up to date when you are writing a will in order to properly execute organizing your estate.
Passing on Without a Will
In the event that you pass on before a will is written and legally valid, you become an intestate, which generally means that your estate becomes defaulted to the laws of your state that outline the inheritance to a rightful heir. This process is called Probate, and during the probate since no executor was named, a judge appoints an administrator to fulfill these duties.
This is also the case when a will is deemed to be legally invalid, which happens when certain standards are not met. Simply put, when a will is written there must be a witness to sign in order to validate it. Writing a will is a better alternative to this seeing as how an administrator is normally a stranger to you and your family which is bound by probate laws of the state, which means your family may be at risk at unfavorable results to wishes and estate ownership.
Writing a Will with Attorneys
Many assume that a lawyer is required when writing a will, though it is not a requirement, it is not a bad idea to have your will witnessed and advised by an experienced lawyer. They are able to provide useful information about legal stipulations and process advice in the event of your demise. However, as long as your will meet the state’s legal requirements then it is valid whether it is drafted by an attorney or you write it on a toilet paper roll.
There are kits available that are considered ‘do-it-yourself’. Looking online for writing a will, or estate planning is a good way to find these kits. Libraries also offer guides that inform you in the process of writing a will. Also, when writing a will, it is advisable to thinking about other essential documents that determine estate and well-being. Such as, appointing power(s) of attorney to ensure and carry out your wishes while you are still alive. This is a smart idea so there is no tampering of your wishes by unwanted, or untrustworthy individuals. We all have that one relative.
Writing a Will with or Without Spouse
Before planning a joint will with your spouse, make sure to check out your states laws about joint wills. Some states will not acknowledge joint wills deeming them invalid. More so, odds are you and your spouse are not going to be dying at the same time, so many estate planners advise against join wills. Probability states that property is not jointly possessed either, but separate wills among spouses are found to look similar regardless.
Another reason why join wills are advised against, separate wills are able to address separate issues involving ex-spouses and dependents from previous marriages. This is also the case for property that is obtain through divorces before the current marriage. Specify in detail as to what is granted to whom, probate laws favor current spouses generally.
Witnesses to Wills
First off, check the laws or with your lawyer with states laws, a few states require two or more signing witnesses. From that it can be said that your witnesses should be unbiased individuals, preferably non-beneficiaries, that can stay indifferent to the matter at hand. These individuals are legally referred to as disinterested witnesses.
Notarizing a will is no always state required, but in some states it is a must to make it valid. Also, you should consider having your witness(es) sign a self-proving affidavit in front of a notary. This is to speed up any probate process so as the witness will most likely not be called into court in front of a judge to validate signatures or authenticity.
Naming an Executor
Firstly, and executor in detail is one that has the responsibility of some important issues such as paying bills, handling debts, and any other outlined issues that aren’t specifically addressed in your will. It empowers an individual, or joint individuals, the ability to handle these matters as long as your wording is proper.
When writing a will and naming an executor, you can choose any trusted individual or relative. However, if your affairs may seem complicated to a friend or relative, it may be ideal to appoint an attorney or trusted individual with legal and financial experience to be your executor. You can also name joint executors such as a spouse and attorney to ensure the proper course of action is always taken.
Leaving Specifics to Specified
The details in your will are key, if you wish to leave specific property, possessions, pets, responsibilities to a specific heir, make sure you indicate it properly in your will. Additionally, you can also create a separate document when writing a will, also known as a letter of instruction. This acts as a legally binding, state law considered, document of instructions that can be written in a more informal way that can go into more detail of whom gets what. This can also be a letter that states account numbers, burial instructions, and passwords for your executor that can ease some of the struggle for them in order to fulfill your wishes.
Optionally, you can also just appoint everything to a trusted individual who is educated in your specific wishes and requirements to distribute them accordingly. Consequently, this is a risky course of action on the basis that you now rely solely on this person’s honor and word to fulfill your intentions without fault. Consider this option very carefully.
Keeping the Will
Obviously you want to keep your will in a safe place away from harm, and tampering, because a court will usually request the original in order or them to process your estate appropriately. A bank safe deposit box that only you can access is an option that has the flaw right in front of your eyes, only you can access it. Your family will need to seek a court order to gain any access to its contents in order to release it to the courts. A better alternative would be a personal safe that is fireproof and waterproof.
Also, your attorney or trusted individual, can store signed copies for the event of the destruction of the original will, this is a safe back up that can offer the establishment of your intentions. Respectively, the lack of an original will can complicate in court leaving uncertainty as to your hopes and wishes being fulfilled as you had wished.
Updating Your Will
It is a fact that no one can truly predict the time of their inevitable passing. It is also true that one may never need to revise or update their will, however, it is still advisable that you maintain your estate planning in your will, subject to change on any alteration to your estate. Validity of your will fall to the most updated original in existence upon your demise.
When considering any alteration, or updates while writing a will, you want to revisit it in the times of life changing events and key moments. The birth of a child, death of a beneficiary, or divorce will significantly change how your will is viewed or executed. Your current children may be fully grown in the event of your passing and may no longer need guardianship, maybe you purchase a diamond pony and do not want it to go to your greedy cousin Pauly. As a rule of thumb, update it when you feel necessary, revisit it every other year to ensure that it is properly written and respectful of your wishes.
Can a Will be Contested?
Yes, a will can be contested by a beneficiary who feels they have been shorted or slighted as a result of the terms written in your will. Contesting a will is a reference to challenging the legality of the will as a whole or just part of the document.
Many different reasons can be cause for contesting a will such as, incompetent when signed, improperly witnessed, or when writing a will, the individual was coerced or it is fraudulent. A will being successfully contested is finding legal fault within it. Validity and clear drafting is key defense for your wishes.