This guide covers the basics of how to make and change a will so that you can tailor it specifically to your needs.
Although it is crucial, only about 67% of American adults have a will.
The primary goal of creating a will is to name recipients to receive all of your assets. Your beneficiaries could be family members or loved ones, as well as non-profit organizations. You’ll also choose an executor, who is in charge of carrying out the provisions of the will. We’ll go through how to make a will in this article, as well as how to alter one and common blunders to avoid during the procedure. You may also view the infographic below to discover more about the procedures involved.
How to Make a Will the Right Way, Step by Step
A will is a critical part of any estate plan and allows you to determine who will inherit your assets. If you die without a will, the probate court will use state law to decide how your assets are distributed – which can be time-consuming, expensive, and cause conflict among family members. Having a valid will in place helps avoid all of that.
Consider writing a will as soon as possible to relieve the strain on your family and loved ones. The nine actions below will assist you in getting started.
- Choose someone to be your Executor.
- Property records should be as detailed as possible.
- Plan Who Will Receive Your Benefits
- Choosing Guardians for your Children
- Plan for Your Pets
- How To Preserve Your Digital Legacy
- Document Your Will
- Keep Your Will Up-To-Date
- Obey the Laws of Your State’s Estates
1. Choose someone to be your Executor
The executor, also known as the personal representative, is in charge of administering your estate. This should be someone you can trust and who is trustworthy and competent – running an estate entails a lot of paperwork.
Before designating someone as your emergency contact, have a conversation with that person to make sure they are comfortable with the role. Then, provide them with access to key documents, such as your will and insurance policies. Additionally, give them any passwords for online accounts that they might need in the event of an emergency.
2. Property records should be as detailed as possible.
You can include both real and personal property in your will, so it’s important to make a detailed list of everything you own while you’re deciding who gets what.
- Real property is classified as any land or buildings that cannot be moved, like houses and shops.
- Personal property can be classified as Bank accounts, stocks, jewelry, family heirlooms, and other valuables.
Keep in mind that you can only leave what you own, so if you own anything together, only half of it may be donated. If you own a vacation house with your best friend, for example, you can only gift away half of the ownership interest in your will.
If your assets are insufficient to cover the debts of deceased persons who aren’t covered by your surviving relatives, those debts will be inherited.
- Mortgages, credit cards, automobile loans, student loans, tax obligations, personal bankruptcies, and medical expenses are all examples of debt.
Make sure your beneficiaries are aware of your debt situation so they can make arrangements to pay off these debts.
3. Plan Who Will Receive Your Benefits
In the event of your death, beneficiaries are those who will inherit your real and personal property based on your will. If one or more of your primary beneficiaries pass away before you do, you should add alternate beneficiaries.
4. Choosing Guardians for your Children
If one parent passes away, typically the other parent gains custody of any minor children. However, if the remaining parent has also passed or lacks capacity, it is crucial to nominate a guardian ahead of time.
- Decide upon who you would trust to raise your children should something happen to either you or the other parent.
- Please list any legal guardians for children under the age of 18.
- If your first-choice guardian is unable to take on the role, list a backup option.
Before entrusting someone with the responsibility of taking care of your children, have a conversation to ensure they are up for the task.
5. Plan for Your Pets
Pets are frequently regarded as family members by many people, but they are legal property. You can include a provision in your will indicating who is to blame for your pets and any special care instructions.
Pets are members of the family, so it’s important to choose their guardians carefully. As you would with any other guardian for your children, have a conversation with potential pet guardians ahead of time to make sure they’re up for the task.
6. How To Preserve Your Digital Legacy
You should contemplate what you would like to occur to your social media, significant accounts you have, and websites you keep up once you’re gone. Make certain that you share any crucial login details, for example, passwords or security questions, with the people who need them. A password manager can store your sensitive info in one spot, making it simpler to transfer hands. You might also need to include your computer password and phone PIN for the individuals you want to access these accounts.
While some sites, like Facebook, have in-built preferences for what happens to your page when you die, you should still make your wishes known in writing as well. This will ensure that your digital legacy is taken care of exactly how you want it by your executor or other loved ones.
7. Document Your Will
Here are some pointers to assist you in drafting your will.
- Be specific: Allow your readers to interpret your will as you intended only if they are familiar with the terms. When determining who gets what, use precise wording and names.
- Be realistic: Set a realistic limit on how much you can leave to specific people so as not to have disagreements about dividing things evenly.
8. Keep Your Will Up-To-Date
If you wish to make changes to your will, you may do so by adding a codicil that contains your signature and any required witness signatures as set out by state law. You can also completely rewrite your will if it needs significant improvement.
Although you don’t need to legally notify anyone if you update the executor or beneficiaries in your will, it’s wise to keep track of those changes. That way, when you do pass away, any listed individuals are sure to be up-to-date.
Review your will regularly. It helps you stay current with life changes.
9. Obey the Laws of Your State’s Estates
All states have different laws for wills, so you must be aware of the requirements in your state. Some needs include having witnesses present as well
as making sure all changes or updates to the will are signed by necessary witnesses.
The following are some additional rules for will validation:
- You must be competent when you sign your will.
- The will must be created free of duress, which means that you can’t be forced to make any decisions.
Information on how to modify a will and when it’s appropriate to do so is below. Keep in mind that a will is a dynamic document that should be updated as your life changes.
What You Need to Know About Changing a Will
When circumstances change, it’s natural to anticipate that your will and estate planning documents will also be updated.
You should consider the following before amending your will:
- Ensure that the executor of your will is still able and willing to fulfill that role.
- Make sure the people you’ve chosen to be legal guardians for your children are still willing and able to perform that role.
- Remove any person from the will who you do not want to be a beneficiary.
- If you’ve experienced a sudden change in your estate’s value, it’s important to consider the implications.
You can sign a codicil to slightly change your will instead of making a whole new one. Make sure any changes are written down, your date and sign the codicil, and follow your state’s laws on having witnesses. Keep the codicil in a safe place with your original will.
If you want to make significant changes to your will, you can replace any existing versions with a new one. You’ll have to follow the same steps as before, including obtaining the signatures of all relevant witnesses. If this is the path you take, be sure to acquire all remaining copies of old wills so they don’t get in the way of your new document.
A LegalZoom Will Work for You?
A will is a legal document that outlines your wishes for after you die. The effectiveness of the will depends on your specific situation. If you’re not sure what types of provisions to include, speak with a lawyer. Our Estate Planning bundle gives you access to attorneys who can advise you for an entire year.
The most essential thing to remember is that you must plan for your estate: Keep your loved ones safe by ensuring that your assets are dispersed as you desire.
Check out the various kinds of estate planning services available through Legal Zoom.