Almost everyone knows that they have to prepare a will to secure their assets before they pass on. But not many people know what it actually does.
So, what is a will?
A will is a legally binding document that expresses your final wishes. Your will is typically registered in a county court before being implemented.
A general understanding of what one can do with a will, is to transfer of tangible assets as per a deceased person’s wishes.
And there are other things you can do with your will too:
Appoint an executor. When you write a will, it is suggested that you name an executor you trust to carry on your wishes. You can also add an alternate executor in case of emergencies.
Choose guardians for your children. You can use your will to name whom you wish to be the guardians of your children, and their properties as well.
Provide for your pets. Name a caretaker for your pets. You can also choose to assign money for your pet’s care.
Backup to your living trust. If you have a living trust, you might still want to create a will to secure wishes and assets that you can’t put into your living trust.
Your will can help you be a part of your family’s life even after you pass away. But it still has some limitations.
Here’s some things your will cannot do for you:
Transfer certain kinds of property. Property you own in a joint tenancy with someone or have transferred to a living trust are few types of property you cannot leave in your will.
Leave money for your pets. Your pets cannot own property. You can appoint a caretaker for your pet in the will instead. However, a better option is to open a trust for your pet (check with your state policies).
Leave proceedings of insurance policy. If you’ve named a beneficiary in your insurance policy, you cannot leave its payouts through your will.
Add conditions on gifts. You cannot instruct to transfer property only under the fulfilment of certain conditions.
Arranging care for beneficiaries with special needs. If you wish to create long-term plans for your beneficiary with special needs, your will might not be the best place. Instead, you can start a trust or get advice from an attorney.
So, how to write a will?
You can choose to create your will with help from an attorney or by yourself. If you decide on the latter, it is suggested that you use an online will creator. These creators provide you with legally-abiding templates and comprehensive guidance.
Make a list of assets. First, make a list of all of your assets and debts, including contents of safe deposit boxes and family heirlooms along with other assets you wish to transfer.
Leave a “letter of instruction.” Provide detailed instructions on what you wish to do with each asset after you pass on – leave it to a charity or who you want to pass it on to, etc.
Appoint an executor. Name a trusted person as the executor to your will. This could be your spouse, child, friend, or lawyer. You can also appoint joint executors. The probate court oversees that your executor carries out your wishes.
Get a witness. Your will gains its authenticity only after you get 2 witnesses to sign the documents attesting to your sound state of mind at the time of creating the will. It is suggested that your beneficiaries and lawyers don’t act as your witnesses. (Some states might require more than 2 witnesses.)
Store the will. Secure your will in a safe location that is protected, yet accessible. Make multiple copies of your will to reduce risks of losing it. You can choose to leave one in a safe along with the rest of your documents and the others with your executor, or even store them in a digital vault like Clocr.
Review your will. Go back to your will every 2-3 years or after important life occasions to make any changes required. You can simply write a new will that replaces the old one, or you can add on using an amendment called the codicil. The codicil, however, requires you to have the signatures of at least 2 witnesses.
A digital or physical will will help give your loved ones some direction on your expectations and wishes for the assets you own, once you pass on. If you don’t have one yet, it is a good idea to start considering making your will today!