Preparing a will can be an uncomfortable thought, as it forces us to confront our own mortality. However, it is an essential document that outlines your wishes regarding the distribution of your assets after your passing. Without a will, your estate may be subject to state law, and your assets may be distributed in a manner that you did not intend. Here, we will discuss the steps involved in preparing a will, and the options available to you.
Step 1: Take Inventory of Your Assets Before you can begin drafting a will, it is important to take inventory of all of your assets. This includes both tangible assets such as real estate, vehicles, and personal property, as well as intangible assets such as bank accounts, investments, and life insurance policies. Make a list of all of your assets, and estimate their value. This will provide a starting point for determining how you would like your assets to be distributed after your passing.
Step 2: Consider Your Beneficiaries Next, consider who you would like to inherit your assets. Your beneficiaries can be anyone you choose, including family members, friends, or charitable organizations. It is important to be specific about who should inherit each asset, as this can help prevent confusion or disputes later on.
Step 3: Choose an Executor An executor is the person who is responsible for carrying out the wishes outlined in your will. This individual should be someone you trust, and who is capable of handling the responsibilities of settling your estate. Consider naming an alternate executor as well, in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to serve.
Step 4: Draft Your Will Once you have determined your assets, beneficiaries, and executor, it is time to draft your will. You can choose to do this yourself using an online resource, or you can hire an attorney to assist you. If your balance sheet is a relatively simple one, and you have very little or no debt, then it may be fine to simply use a trusted online resource. More complicated wills usually require the help of an attorney who can help you and guide you through the process. Be warned though: hiring an attorney will not be cheap, but it may very well be worth the cost in the long run.
Regardless of how you choose to draft your will, it is important to make sure that it meets the legal requirements in your state. Typically, this includes signing the will in the presence of witnesses who are not beneficiaries, and having the witnesses sign the will as well.
Step 5: Store Your Will Once your will is complete, it is important to store it in a safe place where it can be easily accessed by your executor after your passing. Some options for storing your will include a safe deposit box, a fireproof safe in your home, or with your attorney.
Step 6: Review and Update Your Will It is important to review and update your will periodically, especially if your circumstances change. This could include a change in your marital status, the birth of a child or grandchild, or the acquisition or sale of assets. Updating your will ensures that it reflects your current wishes and will help prevent disputes among your beneficiaries after your passing.
Preparing a will is not something that anyone enjoys, but it is an essential part of estate planning. Taking the time to carefully consider your assets, beneficiaries, and executor, and drafting a legally valid will, can provide peace of mind knowing that your wishes will be carried out after your passing. Whether you choose to use an online resource or hire an attorney, the cost of preparing a will is far outweighed by the benefits of having a well-crafted estate plan.
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