Advice for life: How to write a will?

Some tips as you discover how to write a will.

At one point in time, a will was a legal document only needed by the rich and well-to-do of our society. That has since changed. Wills are for everyone who has assets of some sort, and especially for those who have minor children.

Technically, a will is a valid legal document that allows you to determine who will acquire you possessions upon your death. A will may determine who will receive you material possessions such as money and household items, and it may also determine who will be responsible for the well-being of your minor children in the event of your death.

Generally, a will is a safety net in the event of a catastrophe. If you do not have a will your possessions are all taken by the state and disbursed as the state sees fit and you will have no say, as well as your family members will not have any input as to the dispersion of your possessions.

Historically, wills were created by lawyers, but with the advent of several self-help books and websites that help you to create your own will, writing a will is now easier than ever.

However, if you have significant assets or minor children, using a lawyer can help you save money, time, and effort in the long run.

So if you decide to obtain a good estate/wills lawyer, please choose wisely and do research on the subject of wills prior to obtaining a lawyer so you will not acquire several billable hours.

Choosing an Executor

Normally, the first step to creating a will is choosing who you will want to disperse your assets according to your specific instructions, and this person will be responsible for the accurate distribution of your assets, and placement of your children.

The executor should be someone you trust and who is willing to take on this responsibility. This can be anyone you choose to designate. If you are married, the executor can be your spouse or whomever you think is fit for such a role. However, you will want to pick a responsible person because the executor will be responsible for paying of taxes, debts, and other fees. It is a good idea to pay the person some sort of fee for them being responsible for this duty.

This person will also be responsible for the placement of your children according to your specific requests. For the executor and the person you choose to care for your minor children, you will want to choose an alternate person in the instance the primary person is unwilling or unable to carryout the duties.

What goes in a will? (This is not a complete list, but a starting point)

Some of the important information that needs to be in your will:

1. Legal Name

2. City, State, and County

3. Gender

4. Marital Status and Spouse’s Legal Name

5. Number of children

6. If you wish to provide anything for your children

7. Who will care for you minor children

8. Specific Gifts of cash to others

9. Specific Gifts of property to others

10. Whether you wish to create a shelter trust for your spouse.

In cases where the combined estate is large, creating a credit shelter trust (or bypass trust) for the surviving spouse is often considered to reduce the tax burden on the surviving spouse’s estate when the surviving spouse dies. If the combined value of your estate and your spouse’s estate is greater than the ‘applicable exclusion amount’ you may want to consider this. The applicable exclusion amount is $1,000,000 for 2012 and 2013, $1,500,000 for 2014 and 2015, $2,000,000 for 2016, 2017, and 2018, $3,500,000 for 2019, $0 for 2020, and then back to $1,000,000 in 2021.

11. How much of your estate you wish to leave to which person (heirs, beneficiaries, and spouse).

12. Who will receive the remaining portion of your estate?

13. You should have you will typed, although a handwritten one is valid in some states.

14. Two witnesses should sign your will.

15. You should be of legal age (differs per state) and of good sound judgment when you create a will.

16. Keep your will in a safe place.

17. Revise your will at the onset of any important event (divorce, marriage, change in assets, etc.), and actually make it a practice to revise your will every 5 years or so. A lawyer will charge you to revise your will.

18. You will want to sign the will in front of a notary and have it stamped by the notary.

Wills are a necessary tool and should not only be considered when you are a certain age or have reached a certain socio-economic status. They are an important method of controlling your financial future and the well-being of those you love.

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