When a relative unexpectedly dies without a will, it can be a huge hassle to deal with the aftermath while trying to grieve appropriately. By setting up your own will in advance, you can save your loved ones this pain. Planning as far in advance as possible will ensure that your assets can be quickly distributed once you are gone and that all of your wishes will be met.
How to Write Your Will
The first step to writing your will is to hire an estate lawyer to assist you. Lawyers have specific training that has taught them what language to use in such a document and how to make it legally binding.
Once you are ready to start writing your will, you will have to choose an executor. The executor is the person that is in charge of your will once you pass away. He or she will have many duties, including:
- Distributing your assets
- Notifying agencies about the death
- Paying off debts
- Paying any taxes
The executor you choose should be someone that you fully trust to carry out these duties quickly and efficiently.
After you choose your executor, it is time to choose your beneficiaries. These are the people that receive your assets after you pass away. You can either choose to allocate specific assets (such as homes) to specific people, or you can choose to allocate a percentage of total assets to each person. Remember that your executor is not automatically a beneficiary. Make sure that you include your executor as a beneficiary if you want him or her to receive some of your assets.
Other Functions of the Will
While the splitting of assets is the main function of a will, it is not the only purpose that your will serves. You can also use it to relay your final wishes. For example, you can state whether you want to be cremated or buried and where you want your final resting place to be.
One important thing you should add to your will if you are a parent is the person you want to have legal guardianship of your children after your death. Even if your child has a surviving parent, you and that parent should discuss who should have guardianship of your children if both of you are to pass away or become unable to care for your children. Make sure you clear it with the person you appoint before you list them as legal guardian!
This concept also extends to pets. You do not want your faithful friends to be left homeless after you pass away, so make sure that you choose a person that can care for them if something happens to you.
Reviewing Your Will
Once your will is done, you might think that it will not need to be touched again until you die. However, you should review your will whenever you have a major change in your life. If you get married or have a child, you will probably want to add that person to your will. You might also need to remove people from your will if they die (or, in the case of the executor, if they become unable to perform their duties). If you buy a new home or other asset, you should also make sure to add that to your will if you have your assets individually listed.
You do not need to be old or sick to write a will. Having one in place early is the best way to prepare for an unfortunate emergency. Your family will be much better off if something happens when you have a plan in place.