Having a will prepared is a gift of kindness to your loved ones. They will appreciate the effort to care for them, after you’ve passed on.
If you need another reason to have a will prepared, consider the potential for conflict among loved ones who will have to guess about what your wishes were during a very difficult time. You can spare them that distress, by preparing your will and estate plan in advance.
US News & World Report’s article, “10 Steps to Writing a Will,” says that if you've been procrastinating on completing the task, here's your opportunity to cross it off your list. You can get going with these simple steps.
- Do-it-yourself? You can use online software to help you write your will. However, there are many horror stories of people who wrote their own wills with devastating consequences. Consider the late Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger. Wouldn’t you think he, of all people, could write a will? Nope. His will was just 450 words and had a ton of errors. His family spent a fortune in legal fees and had to pay more than $450,000 in taxes to collect their assets. Work with an experienced estate planning attorney. He or she will know how to help you efficiently and effectively.
- Beneficiaries. When you pass away, your beneficiaries will receive your assets. Be sure that this list is up-to-date.
- Executor. This individual will make sure the wishes in your will are carried out. Select a person who’s responsible.
- Guardian. If you have minor children, you need to designate a friend or family member as a guardian.
- Be specific. Don’t be vague in your will and think everyone will know what you want. If you leave your will open to interpretation, it may end up in court.
- Be realistic. Even if you want to distribute your assets fairly, it still isn't easy. It’s best to talk to your heirs about your assets. Tell them that if they have their eye on anything other than house and cars, to let you know so you can write that down and make sure they get it when you die. This gives them some input.
- Attach a letter to the will. It’s okay to attach a personal letter to the will, as a way to say goodbye and make your wishes clear and personal.
- Witnesses. Be sure you have the witnesses required to sign your will. They can't be people who stand to inherit anything in the will. Witnesses also need to be at least 18 years old, and ideally, they'll be people who are likely to be around after you’re gone. That’s because if something’s amiss, and your will is contested in court, the judge may want to call a witness to testify.
- Keep your will safe. Be sure that someone you trust knows the location of your will, as well as any other important papers and passwords to financial institutions. Keep the original copy somewhere secure.
- Keep your will up to date. Major events, like the birth of a child, death, divorce, remarriage, moving to a new state, are all reasons to update your will. This year’s new tax laws may present opportunities that you don’t want to miss out on.
Reference: US News & World Report (June 19, 2018) “10 Steps to Writing a Will”