5 Things You Need To Know Before Writing A Will
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Estate planning is a part of life that most would like to avoid as long as possible. This planning is highly important though, because the unexpected can happen at any age. An important part of the planning process is to create a last will and testament. Before writing your will, there are a few things to consider and decide:
1. Know your State’s Criteria for Legal Wills
As each state is different in what they require for a will to be legally valid, it is best to work with an attorney licensed in your state of residence. Wills must generally have witness signatures and be notarized. The number of witnesses required may vary depending on the state.
Some states will accept handwritten wills (called “holographic wills”). It is extremely important to follow your state’s criteria concerning legal wills, as the estate will go through additional time consuming and expensive probate court proceedings if the will is not recognized by the courts.
2. Who Will Care for Minor Children?
If there are minor children in the household, a decision about who the children will live with if anything happens is a necessity. In many circumstances if a parent dies, the other one is still alive to care for the child. This can change though if both parents pass away or the surviving parent is unfit.
In these cases, choosing a guardian is the best option. If a parent does not nominate a guardian in their will, the courts will decide who will care for the children. Having a first and second choice for guardian ensures that a child will have stable care from someone the parents trust. When considering who will be guardian, it is a good idea to discuss the idea with the person you would like to take on that role before writing the will.
3. Who is the Beneficiary (or Beneficiaries)?
Every will should include a beneficiary (or beneficiaries) for everything the testator owned at death. Depending on the personal circumstances, lifestyle, and family, there may be multiple beneficiaries. Keep in mind that life can change and every will should change as major life events occur. Planning for the “what ifs” of life in the will helps guarantee a person’s final wishes can be carried out.
4. The Executor
This person will carry out the terms of the will upon the testator’s passing. Deciding who performs this function is an important and personal choice. Choosing wisely means knowing you can trust their judgment and their ability to handle all the details in managing the estate.
5. The Preparation Method
There are a few ways for a will to be written. The safest way is to hire an attorney to help you through the decision making process and prepare the will for you. This provides you with the peace of mind of knowing that your will is legally valid and your wishes will be carried out.
Other means of creating a will include paying for an online will writing service, using DIY will making software, and writing your own. While utilizing online services, DIY will making software, or writing your own will may be the cheapest route, these methods often lead to significant problems (and expenses) for your family, loved ones and executor during the administration process (if the will is even admitted to probate at all).
Choosing to write a will is a smart decision that everyone should make. Once all the details above are decided, the process is pretty quick, and with the assistance of a good lawyer it’s pretty simply for the clients.
If you are thinking about preparing a new will, trust, or powers of attorney for your estate plan don’t hesitate to contact the Law Offices of Richard W. Hartman III, Attorney & Counselor at Law, PLLC in Vienna. Richard would be happy to discuss your planning needs, goals, and how to best achieve them for you and your family.
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