Writing a will, like so much of end of life planning, can be emotionally difficult. Doing so forces you to confront your own mortality and make tough decisions about how you would like your family to proceed once you are gone. As difficult as this process is, it is necessary, lest succession laws govern how to settle your estate. Because it can take months in some cases for a will to be found and read after a person passes away, it is vital to communicate your desires as clearly and thoroughly as possible to your loved ones. Here are some of the choices you will need to make when writing a will:
How will it be written?
You can choose between writing it yourself, using an online program or consulting an estate lawyer. Which of these is right for you depends on how complicated your particular scenario is: the more assets you have, and the more complex their allocation, the more you should lean toward hiring a professional.
Who will execute it?
The executor of your will is the person who is charged with ensuring that what is written is carried out as fully as possible. It’s an important job, so make sure that it’s handled by someone who is thoughtful and responsible. This person will also need to deal with all of the various interested parties, so don’t choose someone who doesn’t get along with other people listed in the will. In some cases, it makes sense to choose a neutral third party, such as a bank, to perform this job.
If you decide to use a third party, note that there is a fee associated with providing this service, normally set as a percentage of your estate. If it’s a family member or friend, it’s still best practice to determine what (if any) compensation they will receive.
Writing a will is critical.
Who will be my minor children’s guardians?
If you have young children, a big part of your will should be devoted to how you would like them cared for after you pass away. While you don’t need advanced permission to appoint somebody as your child’s guardian, it is nonetheless a good idea to ask the person first, as they also have the right to decline. If this happens, a court will appoint a guardian for you, and you will not have any say in the matter.
Who will be my beneficiaries?
Your beneficiaries are the people who will receive your money, property, and belongings. There is a clear place on the forms to indicate this, and for you to divide your belongings up as you see fit. Be as specific as possible when doing this, as it will help prevent arguments down the line.
What other details are important?
Your will is also a good place to indicate any other requests that you have, such as what you want your family to do with your remains. It is also the place to attach a message to your loved ones, if there is anything you would like them to know after your passing. The more information you put in, the less confusion there will be as to your true wishes.
Once you have completed your will, keep a copy in a secure place, such as a safety deposit box at your bank. Make sure somebody knows of its location, and can access it at the time of need. Estate planning is not easy, but you will be able to breathe a little bit easier once you know your wishes have been recorded.
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