Regardless of your age or income, it is essential to have a properly drafted Will. Although thinking about and discussing death is not pleasant for anyone, having a Last Will and Testament in place at the time of your death can relieve your loved ones from a heavy emotional and financial burden. Hiring an attorney for will preparation helps to ensure it is prepared correctly the first time, and gives you and your family peace of mind. Taking these four issues into consideration is vital when writing your Will.
1. Take Stock of Your Property and Assets
Before meeting with an estate planning lawyer, sit down and make a list of all your assets and property. This includes your home, vehicles, jewelry, and any other items of value. Write down the amounts of all your bank accounts, investments, stocks and other financial assets. Keep in mind that certain assets such as retirement accounts, proceeds from life insurance, and property owned in joint tenancy typically fall outside the scope of a Will, so make sure all beneficiaries are up to date. Although some people prefer to keep their Will fairly general, if you have certain items or family heirlooms that you want to pass on to specific people, include a comprehensive list of who gets what. An experienced probate lawyer can help you understand which assets may avoid probate and how proper estate planning can help make the process easier and less time-consuming for your loved ones.
2. Think about who to Choose for Vital Roles
Choosing the right executor for your Will can be daunting. Of course, you should choose someone you trust to take care of your affairs and settle your estate according to your wishes. Picking legal guardians for minor children and pets can also be overwhelming. If you are setting-up trusts for your children, it may be best to choose someone else as trustee. It can be tough to put aside your emotions when making these important decisions. Discussing your family dynamics and other issues with your estate attorney is always a good idea. Your lawyer can provide an objective perspective that may help you see things more clearly.
3. Consider all Beneficiaries
If you are married, typically your estate will pass on to your spouse, but what happens if you both pass at the same time? Think about the family, friends, and charities you would like to include as beneficiaries. If you want to leave money or assets to a loved one who isn’t great at handling their finances, talk with your attorney about setting-up a trust whose assets will be controlled by someone else. If you wish to provide for a loved one with special needs, your attorney can help you set up a trust for them as well. If you have children from multiple marriages or a blended family, make sure to discuss your wishes with your attorney so they are laid out specifically in your Will.
4. Do Not Go it Alone
Although estate planning websites make it look easy, attempting to draft a Will on your own can lead to serious mistakes that can have disastrous financial and emotional consequences for your beneficiaries. If you are concerned about the expense, keep in mind that the cost of having a lawyer draft your Will is probably not as much as you think.