A will is the easiest way to ensure that your property, money, and personal items are distributed according to your wishes after your death. Despite its importance, some reports indicate that an amazing 70 percent of Americans do not have a will. Considered a legal document, a will can be written by anyone over 18 who is considered mentally capable. The process need not be expensive or complicated so there is no time like the present to prepare a will.
You will need:
Step 1: Prepare a list of all significant assets. Each spouse in a married couple should create a separate will. Each person is entitled to leave only the share of assets jointly owned with a spouse. Assets should be reviewed to see which must or should be left using methods outside the will. For example, a will cannot be used to leave property held in joint tenancy with another person. Upon your death, your share in this property will automatically revert to the surviving co-owner.
Other property that cannot be left through a will includes: life insurance policy proceeds, money in a pension or retirement plan for which a beneficiary has been named, bonds or stocks held in a beneficiary form, and money within a payable-on-death bank account.
Step 2: Once the assets are listed, determine who will receive what. After determining primary beneficiaries, select contingent beneficiaries in case the primary beneficiary does not survive you.
Step 3: Select an executor who will carry out the terms outlined in the will. Obtain this person’s commitment to serve in this role. It can be a big task so it should not come as a surprise to someone after you die that he or she is named executor.
Step 4: If you have children under age 18, determine who will raise them if their other parent and you are unable to.
Step 5: If property is being left to young adults or children, select an adult to manage their inheritance. This is done by making the individual a property custodian, property guardian, or trustee.
Step 6: Prepare the will document using will creation software or an online will application.
Step 7: After the will is finalized and printed, it must be signed with at least two witnesses present. If a document referred to as a self-proving affidavit is included to simplify things during post-death probate, your signature needs to be notarized.
Step 8: Store the will in a safe place and inform the executor of the location.
Step 9: Keep the will updated as assets are added and removed and beneficiaries die or you desire to change them.