Many people incorrectly assume that estate planning is something reserved for the wealthy. Writing a last will and testament is the cornerstone of estate planning, and it is something that can be accomplished by just about anyone.
The main objective of writing a will is to give loved ones peace of mind after we have shuffled off this mortal coil. We may not realize it now, but submitting survivors to the rigors and complexities of probate can be avoided with an adequately constructed will. A will is more than just a set of instructions on how to distribute property; it is a legal instrument that can help survivors avoid overzealous creditors and lengthy probate cases.
Who Needs a Will?
Anyone who is 18 years of age or older should consider writing a will. All jurisdictions have statutory provisions related to intestacy, which is the process of determining property and debt distribution in the absence of a will, but these provisions may not always seem equitable to everyone. Unmarried couples, for example, are seldom considered by intestacy statutes.
A small business owner without a will might pass away without realizing that his or her family may not get anything from the company. Those who are divorced must think about what could happen to the property they leave behind when their former spouses remarry.
Writing a Will
Prior to undertaking the construction of a will, individuals should become familiar with the probate code of their respective state of residence. A better idea would be to consult with an attorney who specializes in wills and trusts; people who are not wealthy or do not have a lot of property will be surprised at how affordable this service can be.
The first step in writing a will is to include a heading that identifies the document, followed by a:
- Social security number
- Date of birth
- Place of residence
The next step is the declaration, which states that the will is being written without coercion or influence and that it replaces any previous versions or codicils, which are amendments to a will.
Family details, such as names and dates of birth of spouse and children, shall follow. Appointing the executor or personal representative is next; this should be a person who is at least 18 years of age. Including an alternative executor is always a good idea.
The section that follows is the bequeathal, which is the specific listing of property and assets along with how they are to be distributed among survivors. Special requests follow the bequeathal, and a witnessed and notarized signature shall be executed.