A will isn’t something that most people want to think about, but making a will is probably one of the most important documents that you’ll ever write. A will allows you to select who will receive what you own when you die, yet only 46% of Americans have one.
There are several reasons why people don’t have a will. According to a study conducted by Consumer Reports, 25 percent of respondents believed that they didn’t have enough assets to create a will. There was another 20 percent who weren’t sure how to make a will. But creating a will is a good idea — regardless of your assets, and making one isn’t as challenging as you might think. Today we’re going to show you a step-by-step guide on how to make a will.
Here are 9 Simple Steps on How to Make a Will
Follow this guide to help you create a will that protects your assets.
1. Determine the Type of Will You Need
Before doing anything else, you’ll need to determine what type of will you need. There are several types of wills, such as a simple will, last will, and testament, living will, joint will, and testamentary trust will. However, most people find that a simple will or a last will and testament is sufficient.
Note: If you have several assets, own a business, or a complex estate. A living trust might be the best option. Learn more about a living trust here.
2. Determine What Assets to Include
When preparing on how to make a will, you’ll need to make a list of assets that you want to include in your will. You can include whatever you’d like, but some of the common assets that people include are:
- Properties, such as your home, vehicles, and other real estate you own
- Life insurance policies
- Bank and retirement accounts
- Family heirlooms and other personal items
3. Choose Your Beneficiaries
Once you’ve determined what assets you want to be included in your estate, you will need to decide who will receive your assets after you pass, also known as your beneficiaries. You can choose one beneficiary or several.
If you have family, you may want to leave your assets to your spouse and children. However, it’s possible that you’ll want to leave assets to extended family members, friends, or a charity organization.
Note: There is no limit to who you can name as your beneficiary(s). But it’s vital that you are specific about who will receive what. The more detailed you are, the better. If your will needs to go to the probate court, specifications will help speed up the process and ensure your loved ones receive your assets accordingly.
4. Choose an Executor
All wills need an executor. An executor is someone who will read your will and carry out your final wishes. They’ll also distribute your property to your beneficiaries, pay debts if you have them, and perform other administrative duties as needed.
To name an executor, all you need to do is state their name in your will. An executor plays a vital role. Therefore, you should choose someone with specific qualities that will carry out your requests. Here are a few qualities of an executor:
Once you’ve chosen your executor, don’t forget to let them know. You want to ensure that your chosen executor is willing to take on the task.
5. Choose Guardians for Minor Children
For those with minor children, it’s a good idea to choose a guardian for them. When a person passes away, typically the other parent will automatically receive sole legal guardianship. But if both parents pass away, minor children will need a guardian.
A guardian should be someone you trust to raise your child as you would. You may want to consider adding a backup guardian in case your first chosen guardian is unable to fulfill the role.
6. Sign Your Will in Front of the Witnesses
To make your will legally valid, it must be signed in front of witnesses and must be signed in your own handwriting. In most states, you will need to sign in front of two witnesses. Additionally, there are certain people who cannot be your witness. Individuals excluded as a witness include:
- Your executor
- Anyone who inherits something from your will
However, witnesses can be friends, neighbors, or even roommates.
7. Safely Store Your Will
Once your safe is finished and legally valid, you will need to store it in a safe and easy-to-find place. Where you store it is up to you, but we’ll provide you with a few common storing options.
- A home fireproof safe
- Trusted attorney’s office
- Filed with the probate court
Note: There are certain places you’ll want to avoid storing your will, including with your executor, in a file cabinet, on your computer, or in a safe deposit box at the bank.
8. Alert Necessary Parties of Where Your Will is and How to Access it
A will is essential, but will only be any good if the necessary parties know where to find it. Tell your executors and loved ones where they can find your will and how to access it. If you pass, this will reduce stress on your executor and loved one’s behalf who needs access to it.
9. Update as Needed
Even when your will is complete, you’ll have an opportunity to update it. In fact, it’s best to update your will every five years or when certain life events have occurred. Here are a few indicators that it’s time to update your will:
- You’ve gotten married or divorced
- You had children or grandchildren
- You bought real estate
- You’ve relocated to a new state (will requirements vary by state)
- A beneficiary or your executor has passed away
Once you have created a will, make certain you register your will. Registration of a will provides your family with a resource to locate it when needed. Too often family members forget who the attorney was, or where you said you were storing it. As we age, we also forget who has a copy or where it was last placed. Registration helps you and your family to keep track of it. The registry only documents where your will is stored and is not accessible to family members until a death certificate is presented.
We recommend SideDrawer.com as a public, free, and very secure option for our clients. If you are storing your will online, be sure to register it so that it can be easily found since there are many iCloud sites on the internet.