Thinking about our own mortality is never easy, but taking the time to write a will is an important part of planning for the future. Having a will ensures that your assets are distributed according to your wishes. Here are ten things you need to know about drafting one.
While verbal agreements are legal, they can be difficult to prove in court. A written will is the best way to ensure that your final wishes are followed. Every state has different laws regarding wills, so make sure to review your state’s specific rules before you begin the process.
A will is only valid if the person writing it is of sound mind. This means you must be in a clear-headed state and able to understand what you are doing. If you draft a will while you’re suffering from a mental illness, the state may declare the will invalid. Additionally, undue influence may also invalidate a will.
As circumstances change in your life, it’s important to update your will accordingly to reflect your wishes. This will ensure that it stays up-to-date and relevant.
There are two main types of wills: a formal will and a holographic will. A formal will is typed and signed by two witnesses. A holographic will is written entirely in the testator’s handwriting. Additionally, it does not require witnesses. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Be sure to ask the appropriate questions and do your due diligence before deciding which type works best for you.
The executor is responsible for carrying out the wishes outlined in your will. It’s important to choose someone who is trustworthy and capable of handling the responsibility. Every state has different laws regarding executors, so make sure to check yours before you start thinking of who you’d like to appoint as your executor!
While far from a pleasant topic, you have the right to exclude someone from your will if you wish. Make sure to clearly state your reasons in your will to avoid a legal battle. However, it’s important to note that there are certain limitations to disinheritance. For example, most jurisdictions don’t allow one to disinherit their spouse or children. Make sure to look into your jurisdiction’s specific laws before you consider disinheriting.
In addition to naming beneficiaries, you can also leave specific gifts to people or organizations in your will. Known as a bequest, these gifts can include property, sentimental items, or financial assets.
Depending on the state you live in and the size of your estate, your will may need to go through probate court. This process can take time, so it’s important to plan accordingly. To find out more about probate, click HERE.
If you have minor children (or grandchildren you may be raising), you can use your will to name a guardian to care for them in the event that both parents or legal guardians pass away. This guardian will be responsible for the child’s physical care, health, education, and welfare until the child turns 18.
If you are a pet owner, it’s important to make sure your pets are taken care of after you pass away. Naming a pet guardian in your will ensures that they have a loving home. Not every state allows this clause. So, once again, make sure to check your state’s individual laws regarding pet guardianship before you draft your will. And remember—it’s never too early to start thinking about your legacy, so start planning today!
Originally published June 06, 2023