Many people realize that having a written Will is important, since it explains how you want your money and personal possessions to be distributed after your death. Unfortunately, many people also keep postponing drafting a Will because they are unsure of how to proceed or decide on certain aspects, or because they want to attend to issues that they believe to be more pressing.
Surprisingly, reports the legal resource center LexisNexis, about 55 percent of adults in the United States don’t have a Will.
If that statistic includes you, then consider drafting a Will sooner rather than later. Here’s why: Without a Will, distribution of your money and personal possessions is left up to the state, which can lead to conflict within your family – or even cause assets to go to the state.
To avoid such issues, here are some basic tips for preparing a Will:
Take inventory of your financial assets.
This is the first step to make the process of preparing a Will significantly easier. Make a list of all of your savings and checking accounts, investment accounts, Certificate of Deposits, credit cards, insurance policies, and other financial assets.
Hire a lawyer.
This is the second step. Writing a Will can be complicated, and most likely you are not familiar with the intricacies of your state’s laws. If some of your Beneficiaries live in other states, then other states’ laws also could be involved. Although services online and elsewhere may allow you to draft a Will by yourself, this is probably not the best practice. If a Will is written incorrectly or finalized improperly, there is potential that the entire document could be invalidated. Hiring a lawyer who specializes in such areas as Wills, Trusts and Estates or Elder Law will make things easier now and possibly save you and your heirs money down the road.
Consult with your attorney before drafting your Will.
It’s often a good idea to consult with the lawyer you select before starting the process of drafting a Will. Your attorney will be able to help you focus on important considerations and on what you need to know and keep in mind to help you make educated decisions and simplify your decision-making.
Name an Executor.
The person whom you name as Executor of your estate will be responsible for settling your estate in accordance with your Will after your death. It often can be a demanding responsibility, so you should select carefully. Before naming someone as Executor in your Will, ask the person if he or she is willing to be your Executor, or else choose an experienced professional such as a lawyer. For various reasons, some people decide to have Co-Executors.
Name Your Beneficiary or Beneficiaries – the person or entity who will inherit your assets.
You can name as many beneficiaries as you wish or find practical. A beneficiary can be anyone you choose, such as a spouse, child, other relative, friend, or charitable organization. In your Will, you spell out who your Beneficiaries are and who gets what, or the percentage of your estate that you want each named Beneficiary to receive. For some assets, including IRAs and life insurance, the beneficiaries you specify for those accounts can override the beneficiaries named in your Will. Therefore, it is important to ask your lawyer to check and review any previously named beneficiaries to ensure that your assets will indeed be inherited by the correct person(s).
Meet with your attorney to prepare your Will, and review it periodically.
Once your attorney has drafted your Will, carefully read through it a final time with your attorney to ensure that everything is correct. You’ll also want to set a time period, such as every few years, for reviewing your Will with your attorney. That’s because significant events may have occurred, such as the birth of a child or a change in tax laws, which could necessitate updating your Will.