As we go through life, we accumulate wealth, properties, and assets that we want to pass on to our loved ones after we’re gone. However, failing to set up a will can lead to legal complications, family disputes, and confusion about how your estate will be distributed. In this blog, we will provide you with the ultimate guide to setting up a will to ensure your wishes are carried out and your family is protected.
Why Is It Important to Set up a Will?
A will is a legal document that outlines how your estate will be distributed after you pass away. Without a will, your assets will be distributed based on the laws of intestacy, which may not align with your wishes. Moreover, setting up a will can also help you minimize taxes, avoid probate, and provide for your family’s financial needs. Here are some reasons why setting up a will is crucial:
- Control over your assets: With a will, you get to decide who will receive your assets, how much they will get, and when they will get it.
- Protection for your family: A will can help you provide for your family’s financial needs and ensure that they are taken care of after you’re gone.
- Minimization of taxes: A well-crafted will can help minimize taxes and other expenses that may eat into your estate’s value.
- Avoidance of probate: A will can help your estate avoid the probate process, which can be costly and time-consuming.
- Peace of mind: Knowing that your affairs are in order and your wishes will be carried out can give you and your family peace of mind.
Steps to Setting up a Will
Now that we’ve established why setting up a will is important, let’s go over the steps involved in creating one.
1. Determine Your Assets
The first step in setting up a will is to determine your assets. This includes all your property, investments, bank accounts, retirement accounts, and personal belongings. Make a list of all your assets, including their estimated value.
2. Decide on Beneficiaries
Once you’ve determined your assets, the next step is to decide who you want to leave them to. Your beneficiaries can include family members, friends, or charitable organizations. You can also specify the percentage of your estate that each beneficiary will receive.
3. Choose an Executor
An executor is the person responsible for carrying out your wishes as outlined in your will. It’s important to choose someone you trust to handle your affairs after you’re gone. This person should be someone who is organized, responsible, and able to handle financial matters.
4. Choose a Guardian for Your Children
Having children under 18 means you’ll need to choose a guardian in case of your death. This decision should be made after careful consideration and discussion with potential guardians. This person should be someone who shares your values and is able to provide a stable and loving home for your children.
5. Draft Your Will
Once you’ve completed the above steps, it’s time to draft your will. You can either use a template or hire an attorney to draft a customized will. Your will should include your name, address, and social security number, as well as the names of your beneficiaries, executor, and guardian for your children.
6. Sign Your Will
After you’ve drafted your will, you’ll need to sign it in the presence of witnesses. The number of witnesses required varies by state, but typically you’ll need at least two witnesses who are not beneficiaries or related to you.
7. Store Your Will
Once your will is signed, it’s important to store it in a safe place. You can store it in a fireproof safe at home, with an attorney, or in a safety deposit box at a bank. Make sure your executor knows where to find your will in the event of your death.
8. Registering Your Will
In addition to communicating with your family about the existence and location of your will, registering it can also be a good idea. Registering your will means that the location of it is held by a third-party organization, usually a government or legal entity. This can help ensure that your will is located and recognized after your death, and can prevent the need for a lengthy search for the original document. Some jurisdictions may even require will registration. Registration with The U.S. Will Registry is free and they offer a free online secure storage through SideDrawer.com.
9. Regularly Review and Update Your Will
It’s important to review your will periodically to ensure that it still aligns with your wishes. Personal circumstances like marriage, divorce, birth of a child, or death of a beneficiary may require updates to your will. You should review your will regularly and update it as needed to reflect your current wishes. To make changes to your will, you have two options. You can draft a new will or make a codicil, which is a separate document that amends your existing will.
Additional Tips for Setting up a Will
Here are some tips to keep in mind when setting up a will:
- Hire an attorney: While many use a template to draft your will, hiring an attorney can ensure that your will is legally valid and covers all your needs.
- Be clear and specific: To avoid confusion and disputes, be as clear and specific as possible when outlining your wishes. Make sure to name each beneficiary, specify the amount or percentage of your estate they will receive, and include any conditions or restrictions.
- Communicate with your family: Let your family know that you’ve set up a will and where it is located. This can prevent disputes and confusion after your death.
- Consider a living will: A living will is a document that outlines your wishes for medical treatment in the event that you become incapacitated. This can ensure that your wishes are followed if you are unable to communicate them.
- Update your beneficiaries: Make sure to update your beneficiaries on all your accounts, including life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and bank accounts, to ensure that they align with your will.
Setting up a will is an essential step in ensuring that you carry out your wishes. It also helps protect your family after you’re gone. By following the steps outlined in this guide and keeping in mind the tips we’ve provided, you can create a will that reflects your wishes and provides for your loved ones. Remember to review your will periodically and update it as needed to ensure that it remains up-to-date with your circumstances and wishes. With a properly executed will, you can have peace of mind knowing that your affairs are in order. Additionally, you can rest assured that your loved ones are taken care of.