The Ultimate Guide to Drafting Will for First-Timers

by Laura C. Jones
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To say that estate planning is vital would be a massive understatement. It isn’t just crucial. Instead, it’s unquestionably one of the most necessary things you should do in your life. Essentially, an estate plan protects your hard-earned money and possessions and keeps your loved ones financially secure. Multiple legal documents comprise an estate plan. And among these documents, a Will is an integral part of estate planning.

Too often, people tend to put off the task of writing a Will because, let’s admit it, it isn’t an exciting topic to contemplate. But if you own properties that you want to leave for your loved ones, such as a spouse, kids, or relatives, in that case, a Will holds paramount importance.

Principally, a Will is a legally binding document that lets you lay out your afterlife wishes. In simple terms, it enables you to specify the instructions for disseminating your assets, properties, money, and other valuable possessions.

The significance of drafting a Will

Most people, if not all, reckon that Wills are generally for affluent people or think they are still too young to create this legal document. However, life is unpredictable, and you never know what may happen in the future. Not having a legitimate Will in place can make things convoluted once you’re gone. For instance, if you don’t designate the beneficiaries for your assets, the state gets to decide who receives what.

And while it’s crucial to reflect upon the estate planning. It’s equally important, if not more, to think about and tackle estate settlement and administration – a part of the probate process. The settlement of an estate, specifically a considerable one, involves painstaking documentation, in-depth knowledge of state and federal laws, and technical expertise.

Navigating the settlement process requires diligence, objectivity, personal sensitivity, and compassion, which often proves challenging for the personal representatives during an emotionally difficult time. Given this, it’s better to engage estate settlement services to ensure the complete transfer of assets to the right people and organizations alongside the payment of debts and taxes. Not only this, but professionals can also manage cash flow and income tax returns.

Once you have dealt with this aspect, you can knuckle down to the crucial task of drafting a Will. Ahead is a handy step-by-step guide to drawing up a Will. Remember, the state-specific legal requirements vary, so look into those before you attempt to write yours.

Put down all assets

To pass down the assets to your loved ones, you must have an exact picture of what properties you own. These details can make things simplified during the process of drafting a Will.

So, before you get weaving, take a long hard look around your home and take inventory of all the assets you possess and wish to include in your Will. This way, you can avoid on-spot thinking, which can sometimes get overwhelming and might lead you to lose sight of significant assets.

Once you have decided, scribble the specific items. Some important assets may encompass cash, royalties, fine jewelry, cars, stocks, vacation properties, bonds, pieces of art, and collectibles. However, when jotting down the list of items, be particularly careful about their description. Describe them precisely but also in a manner that provides adequate details.

Name beneficiaries

More often than not, most people fail or forget to revise the name of the beneficiaries when making a Will. However, identifying the names of beneficiaries is an essential component of this legal document, irrespective of which type of Will you choose.

A beneficiary is essentially a person or an organization to whom you decide to hand over your assets once you breathe your last. It can either be your live-in partner, kids, charity centers, or some relatives. After you’ve settled on the name of the beneficiaries, try to be specific when writing their details. For instance, include their full legal name and address, and don’t forget to list the name of the secondary beneficiary, too, in case you live longer than the primary one.

However, it’s worth noting that you don’t need to designate an heir for your retirement accounts and life insurance proceeds since these already have pre-existing beneficiaries. But you must identify the name of the residuary beneficiary – a person or an institution to whom you wish to pass down the leftovers of the estate.

Mention special instructions

If you are a parent to special needs kids, minor children, or have some dependents under your care, you would need to appoint a person who will tend to their physical care. Therefore, scribble the names and their birth dates in the Will.

Once done, designate the guardian who will handle the legal responsibility of your kids and dependents once you are no longer alive. But ensure to speak to them before you name them as guardians. The Will won’t come into effect if you don’t obtain the consent.

And if you are a pet parent, you will most likely want to devise a plan to take care of your furry companion so that they are provided for after you pass away. Although pets can’t inherit assets or cash through an estate planning document, you can create a trust and name the pet guardian to manage the funds.

Print and sign the Will

Although the legal statutes of each state vary, it’s imperative to print the Will and sign it once you have thoroughly reviewed its accuracy. But ensure to put your signature in a legally acceptable way.

Once signed, ask two witnesses (other than beneficiaries) to place their signatures on this crucial legal document. The role of witnesses is vital since these individuals will be around if something goes south in the court. For instance, if the Will gets rendered invalid or someone contests its validity, the witnesses will be there to testify. Some states may also require notary signatures to endorse the document as valid and official.

In sum, signing the Will and getting it signed by witnesses are the last principal steps to ensure that the estate planning document is legally bound and executable.

Final Words

Most people tend to hold off the task of creating a Will or feel hesitant to draft one. And even if they do, they come up with a hasty legal document. However, it’s relevant to note that drawing up a Will is essential to the estate planning process.

So, take some time and consider carefully whether this task is something you can tackle single-handedly. A DIY Will, by all means, can be rendered legally valid if only you use boilerplate language and adhere to the state’s legal requirements. However, if you fail to use appropriate language and find it hard to enunciate that you are of sound mind and energy, in that case, it’s worthwhile to seek legal assistance.

Not to hyperbolize but writing a Will is the chance to leave your trace once you are no longer alive. Therefore, be intentional, contemplative, and thoughtful. And ensure to update your Will to protect your legacy.

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