How to Write a Will in 6 Simple Steps
As soon as you transition into the professional world, you start to think about your future. You might begin investing in company stock or setting money aside for retirement. But not as many people will think about writing a will at the same time.
It’s vital to add this step to your life-planning to-do list, though. A will is admittedly challenging to write — it’s something you hopefully won’t have to execute for a very long time. However, taking the steps now will give you peace of mind and make life easier for your family when they have to follow it.
To make the whole process simpler, here are the six steps to writing a will.
Choose Your Beneficiaries
Chances are, you already know to whom you’d leave your money, property and possessions. To start the will-writing process, put pen to paper and map out who would get what. Having this figured out will make the rest of the process simple. Whether you fill out your will on your own or see an attorney — more on that later — you’ll have to have this information at the ready. Start by mapping it out now.
Remember, you need to be very specific as to who gets what. If you want to make sure one child receives a particular piece of furniture, while another holds onto a sentimental piece of jewelry, write that down. If you want to exclude any close family members from your will, you should note that, too — otherwise, they could contest the will in court.
And, if you feel as though any of your choices require explanation, include a letter with your will. You can use the additional space to detail how you want particular parts of your will executed, or explain why you chose specific inheritances or responsibilities for particular people.
Find the Right Medium
You have several options when it comes to writing your will. You could use a website like LegalZoom, which offers virtual help to cover all your bases. This option tends to suit those from the middle class, who don’t have as many assets to dole out or taxes to consider.
For more in-depth will writing, it’s best to use an attorney’s expertise. Perhaps most importantly, they can help you navigate the complicated tax laws and other laws that could affect your will. Without the proper delineation of funds and assets, your beneficiaries could face penalties on their inheritance.
Name the Right Executor
Carefully choose the person who oversees the proper execution of your will. Your closest confidant might not be authoritative enough to handle the job. Your children might not get along, creating more discord if you select one as the executor. Take all these dynamics into consideration as you decide who will be in charge.
For some, the right option might be to make a third party the executor. Banks or law firms will take on the role — for a fee, of course. To that end, you should consider compensating whoever you choose to oversee your will, since they’ll have to put a lot of work into it, too.
Consider Potential Guardians
One of the hardest things to do as a parent is to consider who would best raise your children in your absence. However, the point of a will is to make these questions simple to answer if something unexpected happens.
Obviously, before you name the person(s) you’d like to be in charge of your children, be sure to think long and hard about who best fits the bill. If you’re choosing someone a bit older — say your parents or your partner’s parents — be sure to have a backup plan in case they can’t take on the role. You don’t have to limit your selection to just family members, either. You can name close friends as guardians instead if you think they’re well-suited to raise your children. Speak to the people you choose to ensure they’re up for the responsibility, though.
Follow Proper Protocol
With an attorney overseeing the creation of your will, it’ll be easy to ensure you’ve done everything correctly. First, you’ll need to have witnesses to watch you sign the will and familiarize themselves with the terms of the document. You should try and choose witnesses who aren’t included in the will, so there aren’t any blurred lines. They should know what you wanted in case the will ends up getting contested — they can speak on your behalf, since they were there when you signed the document.
Store your will in a safe place, too. You can keep a copy in a bank safe or another location outside your home. But you should also have the original in your possession, perhaps in a fireproof safe.
Don’t Forget to Make Updates
Your life isn’t stagnant, and your will shouldn’t be, either. Therefore, you should occasionally revisit your will to ensure it covers all your assets. There are specific events in which you should immediately update your will — like if you know you’re going to come into a large sum of money, for example.
Still, revisiting your will from time to time can ensure it changes with you as your life evolves. And, as you’ve learned from reading these steps, you never know what’s going to happen — but you can prepare as best you can for the future by writing a will now.