A will is a crucial component of a well-prepared estate plan. When meeting with an attorney to prepare your documents, you may have a few questions as to how it all works. When you draft a will, how does it become legal and when does it go into effect? Before you sit down to meet with your preparer, it doesn’t hurt to have an idea of how the will creation process works.
Drafting a Will
Don’t wait to create a will. If you pass unexpectedly, you could leave your family in a bind. Even if you don’t believe you have much to leave, you should have a plan for what you want done with your possessions upon your death. Whether you are married or not, you should want to leave what you own to people you know, and not leave it up to a court to decide. Some things to include in a will are:
- Personal items (jewelry, electronics)
- Property (home, vacant land)
- Cash (bank accounts, investment accounts)
- You also want to think about what to do with the items in your home that you may not deem valuable like clothing and furniture.
Designating a Representative
Someone has to be in charge of administering the will and making sure it is presented for the probate process. Some states may require a will to go through probate. An executor is your designated representative responsible for getting your affairs handled. For example, if you want property sold upon your death, the executor will handle getting that done. The executor will also call beneficiaries and make sure they receive what you set out in the will.
If you have children, a will sets out who will care for them in the event of your death. If you are married to the other biological parent, then custodial rights pass directly to that parent. However, you need to still designate a guardian in the event both biological parents are deceased. Choose a family member or close friend who you believe fits best with your parenting style. Then, make sure you speak to the person you choose to make sure they are agreeable.
Executing the Will
A will must be executed when you are of “sound mind and body” to be considered legal. This is to protect the integrity of the estate and you from people who might take advantage of a bad situation (i.e., failing mental faculties). If you draft the will with an attorney, they will help you execute it in front of a notary and appropriate witnesses.
Executing a will should make you feel confident that your final wishes get carried out. Go to an attorney who is familiar with estate planning to get the process going.