Steps to Write a Will
Writing a will is something everyone knows they need, yet no one knows how to start or how to write a will. In fact, according to an AARP survey, 2 out of 5 Americans over the age of 45 do not have a will. However, writing a will is a fairly straightforward process, and the benefits of having one by far outweigh the consequences and burden your loved ones will have to face if you do not have a one.
What Is a Will? Why Do I Need One?
In simple terms, a will is a legal document that outlines how and who will manage your estate after you die. Your estate includes everything from your vacation home to the smallest items such as photos or heirlooms. If you pass away without a will, you will become what is known as intestate, which means your estate will be settled based on your state’s laws. Not leaving a will leaves your close family members and other relatives to decide how to manage your estate according to the administrator appointed by a judge.
These are some of the most significant reasons you need a will include the fact that you get to:
- Decide how your estate will be distributed
- Choose who will care for your minor children
- Avoid legal challenges for your family in the future
Finally, having a will is a critical aspect of your estate planning that includes simplifying your investments and expenses, having a will or testament, pre-planning your funeral arrangements, and choosing your burial arrangements.
What to Include In Your Will?
As you sit down to write your will, you might have questions as to what you should include. No state requires specific language or items to make a will. The best outline is to make sure you include your wishes and exactly how you would like to distribute your assets after you die.
An Executor: The person who executes the directions of your will. In most cases, an executor is either a spouse or partner or a capable close friend. It is also essential to choose an alternate executor in case your first choice is unable to perform their duties.
Beneficiaries: These are your heirs, often your spouse or partner and children. However, if you wish to include anyone else, identifying them as beneficiaries will make sure your wishes are respected.
A Guardian: For those with minor children, choosing a guardian to care for your children is imperative. If you do not select a legal guardian, the court will appoint one for you upon your death.
Assets Divisions: List all your assets, including bank accounts, real estate, bonds, retirement accounts, as well as sentimental items such as photographs, heirlooms, trophies, and so on. By dividing your assets, you will choose the percentage of total assets each beneficiary will inherit.
As you are writing your will, it is important to point out the things you shouldn’t add to your will. While having a will is an inexpensive way to address your estate planning needs, there are some things you can’t accomplish with them, such as:
- Place conditions on gifts
- Leaving certain kinds of property
- Leave money or property to pets
- Funeral arrangement instructions
- Arrange to care for a beneficiary with special needs
Many are surprised to hear that funeral instructions are not supposed to go on a will. Typically, wills are not found until days or even weeks after someone’s death. This is why making separate pre-planning funeral documents spelling out your final wishes is so important.
Can I Write My Own Will? How to Make My Will Legal?
Yes. You do not need to hire a lawyer to prepare your will. However, having an experienced lawyer can provide useful advice on different estate-planning strategies such as writing a living will. Also, there are many “do-it-yourself” kits available online that guide you through the process of writing a will.
To make your will legal, you need witnesses and signatures. Anyone can act as a witness to your will, as long as he or she is not one of the beneficiaries. In Florida, you do not need to notarize your will to make it legal. However, if you wish to make your will “self-proving” which means the court must accept your will without contacting the witnesses, you will have to get your will notarized.
What to Do Next? Who Else Can Help?
Unfortunately, no one can predict death. Having a will can be a blessing for your family and friends in the future. Instead of leaving them to decide what to do upon your death, let them specific instructions and lift the burden of having to deal with legal issues during this already emotionally challenging time. If you are looking to write a will and are unsure how to start, you can reach out to:
- Estate planners
- Funeral directors
- Financial advisors
If you or someone you know is looking for assistance to write a will, at The Gardens of Boca Raton, our caring funeral specialists and our funeral director are always available for a comprehensive meeting to go over your final wishes. Contact us at 561-693-0399 today to schedule your private consultation, or send us an email through our contact us form.