No one wants to think about dying or what will happen with the rest of the family after passing away. However, it’s very important to have a plan of action in place when it comes to the distribution of your estate and assets. That’s where having a will comes in handy. Your last will and testament is a legal document that defines how your property will be divided among your heirs and beneficiaries upon death. Without one, the already-complex probate process becomes a bit more complicated (and expensive), and family members will be faced with difficult asset-distribution issues. Therefore, whether you’re enjoying your golden years or have just entered into the early years of adulthood, it’s highly important to draft a will. We are here to help with these five essential tips:
- Have a conversation with family and friends – It’s a wise choice to talk to the loved ones you plan on including in your last will and testament. Get a grasp on what possessions you have that are important to them, and make a list of what items will go to whom. Taking this step will (hopefully) prevent any drama from erupting between your family members and/or friends when the time comes to distribute your assets.
- Find an estate planning lawyer – Finding a lawyer is a great way to ensure your will is tailored to your wishes and covers all legal bases. Since a will and testament is a legal document, it’s important to seek the expertise of a lawyer who is well versed in the estate planning process. Doing so will guarantee your will is written in the proper format and adheres to specific court protocol.
- Select an executor for your estate – An executor is the person responsible for keeping your estate secure during the probate process and overseeing the distribution of your property as delineated in your last will and testament. Be sure to choose a person who is responsible, fair and capable of carrying out such a role. You may also want to name a backup executor just in case your first choice cannot perform his or her duties. If you fail to name an executor, the probate court will appoint someone to act as an administrator, who will then have to post a bond.
- Name guardians for your children – If you have kids under the age of 18, it’s essential for your last will and testament to name someone as their legal guardian who will be responsible for caring for them in the event both you and your spouse pass away. If you fail to do so, the court will appoint a guardian it views as the best fit (based on your children’s best interests).
- Sign the original document and keep it safe – After your last will and testament is complete, you must sign it—generally in the presence of two witnesses who are not listed as beneficiaries in your will. Once you have signed your will, you’ll want to keep it in a safe place that’s easy for your executor and/or family members to find after you pass away. It is generally a bad idea to put your will in a safety deposit box. You may also elect to give your executor a copy for proof that there is indeed a will.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of things to do when writing your will; it’s just intended to help you get started. We invite you to contact us if you’d like assistance with drafting your last will and testament.
Depend on Us for Assistance with Wills
If you want final say in how your assets are distributed after death, save your family the headache of going through extra hurdles during the probate process and draft your last will and testament. If you require assistance, the estate planning lawyers at Hayes, Berry, White & Vanzant are highly experienced in this area and are ready and willing to help you out in any way they can. Just give us a call at (940) 387-3518, or contact us here!