Do you have young children or a big family? What about savings or a property in your name? If so, do you have a valid will written out? Many people think that only wealthy individuals with millions of dollars in assets need to worry about drafting a will, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Wills are for anyone who wants to protect their family upon their death or incapacitation.
While it may not exactly be fun to think about, drafting a will doesn’t have to be morbid. In fact, it can actually be life-affirming as it allows you to take care of your loved ones and secure their future financial stability and happiness.
Moreover, with a valid will, you’ll also be saving them costly court fees, lengthy legal battles, and ugly personal conflicts. So how do you go about ensuring that your assets will be transferred seamlessly to your beneficiaries and heirs?
Read on to find out.
Identifying Your Assets And Debts
First and foremost, before even meeting with a lawyer, take a comprehensive inventory of your assets, including your bank accounts, real estate, credit cards, investments, retirement funds, and the like. Then, gather all the information you can about your debts, including your mortgage, car loan, outstanding medical bills, etc., and consider whether your financial assets will be enough to pay for your debts.
Next, you should decide whether these assets will pass directly to your beneficiaries, or if some of them will be sold and divided on a percentage basis as part of your estate. Obviously, you will also have to decide who your heirs are. Most people choose their spouse, children, close personal friends, extended family, or charities.
Hiring A Lawyer
The estate planning laws, including those governing living wills and the requirements for a valid will vary from one country and state to another. This means that if you live in Atlanta, for example, you need to be familiar with Georgia’s state-specific estate planning laws before you write out your will.
For that reason, the expert attorneys over at Atlanta Estate Law Center recommend consulting a specialized lawyer who’s handled similar cases in your state to guarantee the best legal advice and services. This way, you can create a solid will that ensures your family’s financial security and future stability.
Naming An Executor
The executor you name will be responsible for administering your estate. This includes using financial assets to pay off any outstanding debts, distributing the remaining assets, according to the terms of your will, and filing your tax returns. While most people choose their spouse, you should consider the intense emotions your executor will be dealing with upon your passing and whether or not that person will be able to manage your estate at that time.
If your financial affairs are complicated, it might make more sense to name a trusted attorney with legal and financial experience. You can also name joint executors like your spouse and your lawyer, for instance.
Guardianship For Minor Children
Normally, when one parent passes away, the other takes full custody of the minor children. However, if both parents pass away, the children’s legal guardian will be determined by the last surviving parent’s will. If the parent doesn’t name a guardian in writing or if they didn’t leave a will altogether, then the state will be responsible for appointing one.
Besides choosing a primary guardian for your minor children, it’s wise to name a contingent guardian as well. Make sure that the individual or couple you choose shares your beliefs and views, are financially stable, and are genuinely willing to raise your children.
Updating The Will
Now that you’ve crossed all the necessary steps off your list, your work is done, right? Not really. Drafting a will is an ongoing process; you need to review your will every time there’s a significant change in your life, be it the birth of a grandchild, a new estate purchase, a divorce, an inheritance, or any other major life events. You should revisit your will at least every 3 to 5 years, as you might want to make some adjustments to ensure that it reflects any major changes in your financial and personal circumstances.
As you can see, there are a lot of elements to consider when drafting a will. A valid will is basically a guide that informs the court and your chosen executor of your final wishes regarding how you want your properties, financial assets, and valuable possessions to be distributed.
It also determines your minor children’s fate in the event of your death. On the other hand, the lack of a will can leave your family to deal with probate, which may lead to an unintended distribution of your assets.
The process of drafting your will can feel quite overwhelming, understandably so. However, the key points above can help ease the weight of this task. With a little preparation and expert legal guidance, you should now be able to write out a fair will that ensures your family members and loved ones are well taken care of.