If you don’t have a will, you are not alone. It is estimated that one-half to two-thirds of U.S. adults don’t have a will. Yet in this case, it is not good to be in the majority. A will is an important legal document that every adult can and should put in place. Fortunately, for an estate planning attorney, it is a straightforward process to create a will.
1. Not just for the wealthy. A will is not just for wealthy people with complex personal and business holdings. Even if you are a person of average means, you have personal property and assets (money, real estate, etc.). A will determines what happens to those after you die. Ask yourself the following:
Does it matter to you who receives your property after you die?
Does it matter to you who receives your money after you die?
Does it matter to you who will take care of your children if you die before the children become adults?
Nearly everyone will answer “yes” to one or more of these questions. A will is a legal directive that resolves these concerns. Another benefit is that in your will, you name an executor. This is an individual who will ensure that your wishes are carried out as you have directed.
2. If you won’t, a court will. What happens if you die without a will? A court will make decisions regarding your property and money. There is a process called probate, which is lengthy and likely stressful for your loved ones, according to top probate lawyers. A will is the best way to protect your loved ones from these problems, especially if you die unexpectedly in an accident or sudden illness.
3. How to get started. The first two steps are to designate a guardian of your minor children and appoint an executor of your will. Next, for anyone you intend to mention in your will, gather basic information such as names, addresses, and birth dates.
Your executor will need information about your debts and assets. Gather records of mortgages, loans (auto, school, business) and credit card accounts. Your executor also needs details about real estate, bank accounts, investments, retirement accounts, and insurance policies and annuities.
4. Why you need a lawyer. It’s possible to go online and create your own will, but there is a simple question to ask yourself: “How do I know it is done right, for the state I live in?” Truthfully, you can’t know this unless you are a lawyer yourself. This is an important legal document that must stand on its own as your wishes after you are gone. It may name beneficiaries that are not immediate heirs, such as stepchildren, godchildren, friends, and charities. An experienced attorney will make sure you address all the issues that may concern your loved ones, and ensure this important document is properly drafted so all questions are answered. Hiring an experienced attorney to ensure your wishes are fulfilled after you are gone is both a wise and sound investment.
5. A living document. One thing is for certain, that is your life will change. Over time it is advisable to review your will with your attorney and make sure it reflects your wishes at the present time. Be sure to inform your executor where your will is kept so he or she can locate it, register it at the appropriate time, and execute it.