Death is not something most people like to think about, but when it comes to writing a will, death is a topic you need to breach. A will is important piece of paperwork to create, especially when you have a large amount of assets to delegate in case something happens to you.
Many people begin considering a will once they become a parent, business owner or husband or wife. If you are entertaining the idea of a will, here are five tips to get you started.
1. Pick a Professional
There are programs available for individuals who want to draft a will by themselves. You can find software packages online that detail the step-by-step process of writing a will. That being said, you could make a multitude of mistakes and oversights trying to draft a will on your own.
The best thing to do is find a lawyer that can fit your needs, especially if you have a complicated family situation or specific desires when allocating your estate. A good way to find a lawyer is through word of mouth. By asking friends, family and co-workers you should be able to find the name of an affordable and qualified legal professional. It is probably best to do some preparation before the meeting. You don’t have to necessarily decide exactly what form of will you want, but understanding how they work and which assets you would like to give away is a big plus.
Hiring an attorney and drafting a will can cost anywhere between $60 and $300 per hour. If it is a simple will some attorneys may just charge a flat rate. Once again, hiring a lawyer to help with drafting a will is a good idea because it helps avoid other legal hardships later on if you need to change or update the document. Using a legal profession could save your family a lot of trouble if you do pass.
2. Choose an Executor
The executor is the person appointed to carry out the instructions of your will. He or she will also administer your estate, so it is wise to choose someone you trust and you know will do a concise job of executing the steps of your will. Most married people choose their spouse as the executor and they often enlist a default executor just in case both spouses die in an accident.
In either case, whomever you appoint as your executor you must make sure they are comfortable with the title first. After ensuring they want the responsibility, outline your expectations of them so there is no confusion down the road. The executor will face the substantial responsibility of handling large sums of money during a time of sorrow.
3. Appoint Guardians
If you have children under the age of 18 it is important to specify who you would like to take over as their legal guardian, otherwise guardians will be appointed by the court. The laws of guardianship also differ for unmarried men and women. If an unmarried man with children dies, custody of his children is automatically given to the mother, but if an unmarried woman with children dies, the father of her children doesn’t automatically win custody. Drafting a will in which the guardian is appointed can avoid legal strain and guardianship confusion at the time of death.
4. Establish A Trust
When deciding how to pass your assets along to your children or other inheritors, the most common choice is creating a trust in which you can allot various amounts of money to your children over a period of time. You could choose to have it all distributed in one lump sum when your child reaches a certain age. You could appoint trustees to manage your money and look after property until your beneficiaries reach an age at which they could inherit your assets. Picking trustees is similar to appointing an executor. You must find responsible people you trust. Make sure it is someone you know will be able to manage money wisely and take initiative to make sure it reaches the right hands.
5. Keep it Safe
After you have worked out all the details with your lawyer, family and friends, make sure you have your will signed and witnessed and then choose a safe place to keep it. It can be difficult choosing a location for your will because it must be somewhat hidden but not enough so that the correct people can’t get to it. First and foremost, the location should be flood-, fire- and other damage-proof. Also make sure the document is not placed somewhere where it can get stolen or lost. Once you pick the proper location, your executors will be provided with a certificate showing where they can access your will.
Marina is a staff writer for MyBankTracker.com. She is an expert in college finances, consumer spending and banking.