The task may not be fun, but it shouldn’t a challenge! That’s why we’re here to help you out.
No one wants to think about writing a will, but everyone should have one. While the percentage of people who have a will increases with age, an AARP survey found that only three in five adults over the age of 50 have a will. No matter how nerve-wracking the task is, taking some time to write the legal document is important.
Some may consider writing a will the beginning of the end, but the official paper is really a just cautionary measure. The document gives you the opportunity to disperse a life’s worth of assets to family and friends you hold close to your heart. You’re given the opportunity to make sure everything you own is right where you want it to be.
Whether you are just starting your career, enjoying retired life, or somewhere in between, a will should be written. Of course, the task comes with many questions. Below, we’ve answered some common questions that come along with these testaments to make the process a little easier on you!
What happens if I never write a will?
While we don’t want this to be the case, nearly 40% of adults find themselves here. Of course, your assets will still be properly dispersed, but perhaps not to your liking. When this happens, it is called intestate, meaning your estate will be settled according to the laws outlined by your state.
A person with no relation to you will be appointed administrator. The administrator position is similar to the executor designated in a will. The administrator is required to follow the laws of the state and sometimes the decisions he or she makes can unfortunately disagree with the wishes of you or your successors.
Who should I name as my executor?
The American Bar Association advises you to “pick someone who is financially responsible, stable, and trustworthy.”
The executor usually has a lot of responsibilities including collecting assets of the estate, preparing an inventory of the estate, and distributing the property to heirs. Although seemingly complicated, the executor doesn’t need to go through the process alone. In most cases, he or she will hire a professional to assist with the process.
Consider naming a paid executor. In this case, you pay someone who cannot gain from the will. By appointing a third-party executor, you can avoid potential conflicts of interest.
All in all, lawyers have not come to a consensus on who the best executor is. Your personal preferences and your individual circumstances should drive your decision.
Where should I keep my will?
The question may seem a tad strange, but a lot of people are asking. Ultimately, the lawyer that helps you craft this testament will advise you on where the will should be kept.
“We send clients home with a nice, clearly marked copy that indicates on the cover where the original is stored,” said Mark Lyon, a Mississippi Law Clerk. “When the client decides to change their will, they remember and come back to us.”
Lyon also says the original copy is kept in a safety deposit in his office.
The executor outlined in your will or someone else you trust should also have a signed copy. Wherever your will is kept, don’t lose the original copy because that could become problematic when the time comes to settle your estate as you wished.
How do I make sure my will is valid?
No law requires you to write a will with a lawyer. A “DIY” will is perfectly acceptable, but certain steps must be taken to ensure that your will is accepted and recognized by the state.
Each state has slightly different rules. Some consider handwritten documents official, while others do not. Some states require three witnesses, others just two. No matter what, be sure to understand your state’s laws to know exactly what needs to be done to make the document valid. You can research your state’s laws here.
Your will must be specific. When passing over the rights to a home, include the full address. Use full names when referring to your beneficiaries because “my daughter” or “my husband” is not sufficient. You should also communicate with your beneficiaries exactly what you want them to receive. If you have children, the topic of inheritance might be a private matter, but you should start the conversation.
Do I ever need to update my will? If so, when?
The answer is yes! Depending on when you first write your will, a lot of things can change in your life. You should consider updating your will when major milestones happen in your or your beneficiaries’ lives.
New marriages or divorces in the family, the birth of grandchildren or your own children, an heir passing away, the purchase of a new home, or the start of a new business are all grounds for updating. Revising your will after such events or similar ones occur will help you make sure all of your assets and beneficiaries are clearly assigned according to your wishes.
If no big occasions occur that trigger you to modernize your will, the document should still be updated at least every five years—but it should be reviewed every two to three years. You want to consider minor things that happen in your life so everything is taken into account on the testament.
Don’t let the time you take to write a will be glum. A will is simply you putting your wishes down on paper. It does not symbolize an ending, but rather, the chance for your beautiful lifetime of memories to be shared with and protected by your loved ones.
Do you have a questions about how to put together a will? Ask a Pup, we’re happy to help!
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