Writing a will is something that people don’t like to think about. No one wants to delve into what life will be like for their loved ones when they pass away. However, taking the time to create a will is a great service for the people you love most; they won’t have to figure out how to handle your estate in addition to coping with losing you. If you are ready to tackle your estate planning, you may have the the following questions:
- Should I involve legal assistance while creating my will?
Technically, if you write your will on the back of a cocktail napkin with the no legal assistance at all, it is valid. However, the details of your will are subject to laws in the state you live in, not to mention some estate decisions might actually have a negative impact on your beneficiaries from a tax standpoint if executed wrong. For this reason, it is a good idea to consult legal assistance from an expert who specializes in preparing wills throughout the process.
Finding legal assistance to help you prepare a will might feel overwhelming. To get started, over 40% of people looking for legal assistance begin looking online. At least half of lawyers who have an office alone and more than 80% of lawyers who practice law on a team have websites that include helpful information, like their areas of expertise. This information is valuable in locating a legal expert you trust while creating a will. Many law firms’ websites even allow you to ask questions that are answered by legal experts; almost half of people seeking legal advice find this a useful tool.
- Should my spouse and I create joint or separate wills?
When you and your spouse share everything you own, it might feel redundant to create separate wills that say the same thing. However, most estate experts advise against creating a joint will. Outside of a tragic accident, it is almost certain that you and your spouse will pass away at separate times. It is complicated to execute a will where one party is deceased and the other is still alive, especially if there are any assets that are not shared. In fact, some states don’t even honor joint wills.
It is especially important to have separate wills if either spouse was married previously or has children from a separate relationship. In most states, any assets owned by the deceased party will go to the current spouse by default. If you have wishes other than that, you will need to stipulate them in your separate will.
- How do I choose a witness when creating my will?
Most states require you have at least one witness to make your will legally binding; some require two or three and some require a notary to be present when your witness signs. The laws regarding witnesses that make a will legally binding in your state is a great question to pose to your lawyer (or perhaps ask on a website for a estate law office in your area).
One thing that is universally true is that your witness should not be listed in your will at all, as it would be a conflict of interest. You also will need to find a witness who did not help you write your will. In other words, the lawyer who helped you draft your will cannot also serve as a witness. Many legal experts suggest having your notary and witness also create a “self-proving affidavit.” This basically just verifies your witness’s signature so that they don’t have to testify to its authenticity if your estate were under dispute.
- Who should serve as an executor of my will?
Choosing an executor depends on the details of your will. If your will involves complicated conditions, you may want a lawyer to serve as the executor. Otherwise, you can name your spouse or children or a partnership of all of them to disperse your estate. Your executor will need to be capable of taking care of both your debts and assets.
Do you have any other tips for people writing a will? Please share them in the comment section below.