A 2017 study revealed almost 50% of Americans don’t have a Last Will and Testament. Thousands of families could be left unprepared with the stress of probate when their loved ones pass away due to the lack of an estate plan.
Even if you believe your estate isn’t big enough to warrant creating a will, this document is still quite necessary for you and your loved ones. Without a legally valid will, any property or assets that you own must be distributed by the probate court. This can be a lengthy process and result in unnecessary stress on your loved ones during an already troubling time.
The primary benefit of having a legally valid will is to put you in control over what happens to your estate after you die. It allows you to be sure your final wishes and instructions will be rightfully carried out.
While you cannot completely avoid the probate process in certain situations, creating a will allows your family to be cared for without having to wait for the court to make decisions. A clear and legal Last Will and Testament speeds up the process so your beneficiaries receive their portion of the estate without lengthy complications.
The procedure for creating your own will begins with a DIY kit (physical or software) that could include a formatted template, health care designations, document information such as the power of attorney, and instructions and information for your family through workbooks. You can also go through a website where you can customize the document to your specifications.
You can put together a legally binding Last Will and Testament through an online document preparation website. The instructions are generally easy to follow, and, for the most part, you just fill in the blanks and choose the options that fit your situation.
One upside of creating your own will is the ability to work at your own pace from your own home. You can also make changes to the document before any final signatures. You remain in control over your estate and any final wishes and instructions.
As you begin setting up your Last Will and Testament, you must make decisions regarding the following:
The executor is the person responsible for carrying out instructions in the will and working with the probate court to ensure everything remains legal. As this person will have access to sensitive financial information, the executor should be someone trustworthy and responsible.
Your beneficiaries are the people or organizations who will receive portions of your estate. As the testator, you can select any person, business, or organization as your beneficiary. You can also decide how you want to split your estate and who will receive what portion.
If your children are still minors at the time of creating your will, you should select a legal guardian for them, even if you don’t think it will be necessary. Also, keep in mind whoever you choose as the legal guardian will also have access and control over your child’s portion of your estate until they are of legal age to claim it.
Your Last Will and Testament is not considered legally binding until you and your witnesses sign the document. You are required to have two witnesses verify you are signing the will and are fully aware of your actions.
You can also include a Self-Proving Affidavit to attest to the validity of all signatures in the will. This document will save time and stress during the probate process.
As you begin this part of the estate planning process, there are a few things to keep in mind: