A last will and testament can be confusing, but it is necessary. According to an AARP survey, 2 out of five Americans over 45 do not have a will. While no doubt a daunting task, formulating a will saves time and money for loved ones and offers peace of mind about everything. Your estate includes all of your possessions, large and small. If married, you may only will your share of assets. Each spouse writes their own will. Most states do not accept joint wills. Trapp Law, LLC can help you sort out your estate and will before it’s too late.
Where to Start with Planning Your Will
Begin with the most important issues, and end with items of sentimental value. If you have children or you’re a guardian to dependents, who would you like to take on that responsibility? Simultaneously choose the manager of any items, large or small, which you will leave to those children. Once caregivers are determined, before selecting beneficiaries – the receivers of your money, house, and other belongings – do an inventory of what you are willing away.
Including Property in Your Will
If you are the sole owner of a property, include that property in your will. By law, joint tenancy property grants the right of survivorship to your joint tenant. Therefore, when you die, your share of the property passes directly to the surviving joint tenant, regardless of what your will says.
A living trust is also an option to consider. The property included in a living trust avoids probate; whereas property in your will does not. The property in the living trust, managed by a trustee, automatically goes to the beneficiaries. If you want to change this arrangement, you must do it through the trust forms and documents and not through your will.
Including Life Insurance Policies in Your Will
Life insurance proceeds that have a beneficiary automatically go to the beneficiary. Most will do not include insurance policies. Likewise, retirement plan proceeds, including money from a pension, IRA, or 401(k) automatically go to the designated beneficiaries in the policies. Stocks and bonds are yet another type of property that automatically goes to the named beneficiary. To change the beneficiary for these types of policies, contact the policyholder.
Including Gifts in Your Will
Conditions that include marriage, divorce, or the change of the recipient’s religion cannot be provisions in a legal will. A court will not enforce them. Although you can put certain conditions on gifts. Keep in mind that putting conditions on gifts can complicate things. Think about who will actually enforce these conditions, for how long, etc.
Divide Small, Low-Monetary Items
Willing items of sentimental value can be lasting impressions of character and legacy. Selecting people who will appreciate small, low-monetary items you appreciate most can be more lasting for many people. Finally, choose an executor of the will. An executor of the will is responsible for carrying out your wishes. Furthermore, a court generally requires the original will to process an estate. Always keep a will in a safe, yet accessible place.
Choose a Trusted Witness
Any person can act as a witness to your will. Choose a disinterested witness – someone who is not a beneficiary of your will, such as — to avoid the potential for a conflict of interest. Some states require two or more witnesses. If a lawyer drafts your will, he or she should not serve as a witness.
Not all states require notarization of a will, but some do. You may also want to have your witnesses sign what’s called a self-proving affidavit in the presence of a notary because it can speed up the probate process.
Be specific when formulating a last will and testament. Do not leave any of your wishes open to interpretation. The laws governing will vary from state to state. If you aren’t familiar with them, consider consulting a knowledgeable Indianapolis estate planning lawyer or estate planner in your area.