Everyone has a story about a family they know divided because a parent or family member did not have an estate plan in place. If you want to prevent that story from being about your family, it’s imperative to initiate your estate planning, including a will. Getting the process of preparing and drafting a legal document accomplished is not a difficult process, but it’s helpful to understand the basics of preparing a will that prevents that story of family drama from happening to your family.
There are a lot of emotions that accompany the process of drafting a will. Don’t let your feelings get in the way of writing your will. Start inventorying assets, collecting documents, creating lists, and having important discussions about beneficiaries, executors, and what assets you want passed on.
Know the terms used in drafting your will.
Because a will is a legal document, there are a lot of terms to understand when preparing your will. Here are a few basic terms used in almost every will:
Beneficiary-heir(s) (family members, friends, associates, organizations) that receive assets specified in your will
Executor-party that ensures that all the terms of your will are carried out
Guardian-person(s) that is going to care for your kids
Make sure it’s legal.
A worthless will can cause more problems for your heirs, including financial costs. For that reason, choose the author of your will carefully. Selecting an experienced lawyer not only ensures that your assets are distributed in the manner you want, but also has the expertise to recommend any other legal documents that need to be in place for estate planning and any related situations that could arise.
Don’t make any assumptions.
Leave nothing to chance when drafting your will. Be specific as possible; carefully detail every wish, every item that you want passed on, every beneficiary (and a back-up if your beneficiary is unable to receive the item), and any other preferences about your estate. For example, if you want your nephew to have your prized model trains, carefully list every item from your collection in your will.
Keep it updated.
A will is not a static document to be tucked away and collect dust. Update your will when you add more members to your family, marriage circumstances change, death of a beneficiary, significant changes in assets, etc.
Keep it safe.
If you put your will in a safe deposit box, no matter how legally sound, you can make the process more costly and complicated for your family. Your family may have to get a court order to gain access to the safe deposit box. Instead, choose a fireproof, protected container for your document. You’ve gone through all the work to draft a sound will to make it easier for your family; finding a safe location ensures that your will is accessible when the time comes—and can do everything you specified.