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What to Know About Writing a Will


Writing a Will

Watch any long-running sitcom and you'll probably find an episode where the parents resist writing their wills. Generally, one parent is holding out because connect writing a will to dying, and this makes them unwilling to tackle this important task. But, the truth is that a will is the only way you can ensure your loved ones are cared for when you're gone.

Writing Your Will Yourself Vs. Using an Attorney

Once you decide to write your will, you can either do it yourself or hire an attorney to help. Using a professional ensures that your will is free of errors and meets state requirements, meaning that it will hold up in court, even if contested. You should consider hiring a professional if:

  • You have assets in other states or countries
  • You have minor children
  • You're married, divorced, or remarried
  • You own a business

If you decide to write your will on your own:

  • Don't write a will by hand. It may not be legal in every state
  • Work within a trusted software program. This software should include step-by-step instructions, detailed forms to fill out, and legal advice specific to your personal situation
  • Make sure to sign your will according to the software program's directions in front of the right number of witnesses and then get it notarized

1. Select an Executor

An executor is someone who carries out your will, and will locate your assets, pay your creditors from your estate, and make sure your loved ones get the property you leave them. Attorneys caution against naming co-executors because getting two people to agree about your affairs can be difficult. Select one person you trust and discuss executorship with them.

2. Choose a Guardian

If you have kids under the age of eighteen, selecting a guardian is important. Choose a single person or a couple able to raise your children, and discuss the responsibility with them. You should ideally also choose a separate person to handle the money that you've left to your children.

3. Establish a Trust

A trust serves several purposes, including supporting minors, managing charitable gifts, and providing a safeguard for beneficiaries. There are many types of trusts available. You need a trust if you have minor children or more than $100,000 in assets.

4. Divide Your Goods

Many people name a loved one to inherit the bulk of their belongings, but others like to divvy up their property. If you have a lengthy list of items to distribute, include details of each item and its recipient so there's no confusion.

5. Draft a Letter

If you'd like to provide a detailed explanation or message to your heirs, consider attaching a personal letter to your will. The letter may also include safe deposit box information, account numbers, passwords, and insurance policies to make your executor's job trouble-free. Make sure you update the letter after any major life changes.

6. Keep Information Safe

Finally, store your will in a safe place and tell your executor or a family member where the will is located so it can be found and fulfilled quickly.

No one likes to think about death, but should something unfortunate happen to you, you need to have a will to protect your assets and your family.

Tools to Help

Making a Will on Your Own

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What You Can Do Right Now

Information is great. But taking small steps now can lead to big changes.
  • Today
  • Decide to write your will to protect your loved ones following your death.
  • Determine whether or not you will consult an attorney to write your will or if you will do it yourself.
  • Next Week
  • Select someone you trust to serve as the executor of your estate.
  • If you have minor children, you also need to select someone to assume guardianship of them if you die before then turn 18.
  • In the Next Few Months
  • Decide how your assets will be distributed, including how you will provide for your family and dependents.
  • Create an inventory of your belongings if you have specific items you want to leave to specific people.
  • Once you will is complete, make sure it is appropriately signed, witnessed and filed with the court.