For some, it always feels strange thinking about writing a last will and testament. Thinking of mortality and even expecting it can be too much for some people to handle. However this is one of the most important things you can do for your loved ones even if you are young and healthy. It can ease your mind that you have taken care of them and given instructions on how to move on.
Before you sit down and write a will, there are a few things you should know and consider:
- What is a will? A will is a legal document where you get to decide a few things about your assets. It is used to define who will get what of your assets and even how it should be used. The first thing you should do is to make two lists: your financial assets and your beneficiaries. You should list any fixed and movable assets as well as physical items of import. Your beneficiaries can be anyone from relatives to friends and organizations. Allocate out all your assets in partial or in full to these beneficiaries.
- What if there is no will? Every state has its own nuances within the inheritance laws but one thing is always clear. Things run smoother if there is a will. The absence of proper documentation can cause unnecessary strife amongst your friends and family of what they deserve. Even a sole heir usually has to cut through a lot of red tape before your assets are transferred to them.
- A Lawyer is not needed, but helpful. While you are not required to have your will prepared by a lawyer, it is always a good idea since they can offer estate-planning advice. There are many do-it-yourself books, seminars, and online platforms that can help you figure things out, but it should always be looked over by someone with experience and expertise.
- What is Probate? Probate is the process where your will is proved by the court and is validated. In short, it is the process that makes everything legal. The tedious process usually takes 3-6 months, but problems like an improperly executed will can delay the release of assets for a very long time.
- Witnesses Matter. The people you choose to witness your will need to be trustworthy. They should also not be a benefactor of your will. Some states have particular laws about notarization and the number of witnesses needed.
- Who should be the executor? A benefactor that is not a minor is usually the best choice for an executor, however it can be anyone. If you think there will be conflict amongst your loved ones, then you should appoint a lawyer to be the executor. The powers of the executor can be limited by the will if needed.
- Who can contest a will? In most cases, it is a beneficiary that does not get what they feel they deserve. These contestations can hold up the probate seemingly indefinitely. These issues are usually settled by a judge in probate court.
- How often do you update a will? Any major changes to property, finances, or other assets should activate the need to update your will. Any assets not mentioned in a will can be disputed among heirs. If you have none of these types of updates, then you should still review your will every few years.
Even with this knowledge at your back, you still should consider seeking professional help. Many of your insurance policies may have free estate planning as a bonus. Contact FBS today to learn more about will preparation and other long term financial planning tools.