Preparing a Last Will and Testament is an important aspect of estate planning. Life is unpredictable. You need to make sure you do right by your loved ones and ensure your assets are smoothly transferred if something were to happen to you. This article discusses the most important things you need to consider when learning how to make a will.
Making a last will can be a long and complicated process. Some of the most important aspects include:
1. Deciding Who Gets to Be Your Child’s Guardian
If your child is under 18 years old when you are preparing a last will, you need to decide who their legal guardian will be if you and your partner pass away. Safeguarding your children’s future is essential here, and you need to make sure you pick the right person for it.
Some of the things you need to keep in mind when choosing a legal guardian include:
- Where do they live?
- What type of values, religious beliefs, educational views, and parenting style do you want the guardian to have?
- What is their current age and health condition? This consideration is particularly important if you want the child’s grandparents to be their legal guardian.
- What is the financial situation? Do they have children of their own? Can they support your child and give them the life you want?
2. Naming an Executor for Your Will
Choosing the right person to execute your will is easily one of the most important decisions you will make when preparing a last will and testament. The executor of a will is the person or institution responsible for administering your estate as per your wishes after you die.
An executor’s duties include:
- Filing court papers to initiate the probate process
- Taking an inventory of your assets
- Using your funds to pay any bills
- Preparing and filing your final tax returns
- Transferring your assets to the beneficiaries in your will
We recommend choosing an executor who is responsible, trustworthy, well-organized, and capable of handling paperwork.
3. Deciding What Happens to Your Assets
The key purpose of your last will is to determine what will happen to your assets when you die. Even if you have a simple estate, this is an important consideration. Having a will in place for these assets will allow your family to avoid the hassles of intestacy and ensure that your assets are distributed as per your wishes. Intestacy refers to when a person dies without a Last Will and Testament in place. In this case, the state law gets to decide what happens to the assets. If you need professional guidance on this, we suggest seeking help from an estate planning attorney.
An estate planning attorney can also help you determine which assets cannot be transferred through a will. These include retirement benefits, annuities, beneficiaries of a life insurance policy, securities in transfer-on-death accounts, etc.
Being aware of these factors helps you prepare a comprehensive last will and testament that ensures all your assets are accounted for. It can also prevent any disputes between family members in the future.
4. Think of Your Pets When You Make a Will
Another important consideration when learning how to make a will is deciding what will happen to your pets when you die.
Laws do not allow you to leave money or other types of property to your pet. Laws state that animals are property, and one piece of property cannot own another piece of property. However, you can plan to make sure that your pet has a good life after you die. Use your estate plan to make sure that:
- your pet goes to a caring person or organization, and
- the new caretaker has the resources to take good care of him or her.
You should assign a formal caregiver for your pet who can look after them if something happened to you.
Consult your friends and family members to pick the right person for this role. You should make sure that a specific caregiver can look after your pet without disrupting their routine. They should also be financially stable so they can care for your pet.
5. Make a Will that Accounts for Real Property
Real property is a type of physical asset that includes lands and buildings. When you are preparing to transfer real property through your last will, you need to begin by taking an inventory of all your physical assets. The will needs to account for any debts or financial obligations as well. For instance, you may have an unpaid mortgage on a property, a car loan, or a personal loan. These financial obligations will impact your assets. If you die without paying off your personal debt, your assets could be used for paying it off. You can speak to an estate planning attorney for more information on this. They can help you create a plan to reduce your debt and protect your assets from your creditors (banks, lenders, etc.).
Once you have identified the real property, you can choose a suitable beneficiary for it. The title deed of the real property will not pass to the beneficiary until the probate process completes. As mentioned earlier, the will’s executor is responsible for starting this process. If your property has a mortgage, the will will transfer it to the beneficiary, too.
The beneficiary will need to arrange a formal transfer for the title deed once the distribution process is complete.
6. Make a Will that Includes Digital Assets
Your estate isn’t limited to physical assets, such as your house, cash, and other property. It also includes digital assets. These include your social media accounts, funds in online financial accounts, such as PayPal, copyright licenses, software, digital photos, etc.
You can distribute some digital assets through a last Will and testament. However, most digital assets are transferred in other ways. These include ownership of your social media accounts, email access, subscription accounts, and financial software, etc.
7. Making the Last Will and Testament Legally Binding
Your last will and testament needs to meet certain requirements in order to be legal. These requirements will change depending on the state you live in. However, some requirements are consistent across all US states. For instance, you need to be over 18 years of age, (the only exception to this rule comes into play when the individual has emancipated minor status), be of sound mind, and have a clear intention of creating a will. The last will and testament must also be handwritten or typed.
The will maker should have a clear idea of who their heirs at law are to create a valid will. They must also have a good understanding of their net worth as well.
Most states require that witnesses must be present for the document to be valid. Additionally, the witnesses need to be 18 years of age or older in most states. Other restrictions are also in place in most states regarding the witnesses. This includes the fact that the witnesses must not be related to the creator of the will. You also cannot choose any fiduciaries or beneficiaries as witnesses.
There are other requirements relating to your signature, the witnesses you choose, etc. Each state has their own requirements. You must do research on these before signing.
Wrapping It Up
Learning how to make a will may sound like a complicated process, but with the right tools at your disposal, it can be easy. Once you have determined how you want to distribute your assets, you can select which method to use to prepare the will. There are two methods available. You can talk to an attorney specializing in estate planning or look for online resources. The U.S. Will Registry has provided a checklist for creating a will with an attorney. A checklist will help you to gather your assets, as well as gifts you want to bequeath, to make the will process easier and more organized.
8. Registering Your Will
A Will you cannot find, has no value. Studies show that 76% of wills can’t be located when needed. There are so many places that people choose to store their will. Often people want to hide their will from family members and some share the location with their loved ones. It is unfortunate that the will gets moved or updated too often without anyone knowing about its whereabouts.
To assure your most recent Will can be found when needed, be sure to register your will in The U.S. Will Registry. Due to Covid, The U.S. Will Registry is offering a 50% Discount Code – (Reg2021). The will itself does not get registered, only the location and those listed as having permission to have access to it.