5 Things to Remember When Preparing a Will

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Drafting a will is an important part of preparing your affairs so your loved ones have less to deal with when you pass away. It’s an important document to have prepared and ready, decreasing the stress and worry your family may face.

And while the focus may be on determining who receives what assets in your will, there are several other things you must keep in mind during the will-making process.

If you’re preparing your will, here are 5 things you need to keep in mind:

Don’t Completely DIY It

Your will is much more than just a listing of who gets your house, your bank accounts, and that heirloom jewelry handed down from your grandparents. It is a binding legal document that can be invalidated if a judge determines there’s something illegal in it.

To prevent your will from being invalidated – and your family having to go through a prolonged legal battle over your affairs – it’s important that you get at least a little help with drafting your will.

This doesn’t mean you have to hire an attorney to walk you through the entire process from start to finish. However, you should consider having someone knowledgeable and experienced in wills look over your final documents to ensure that everything’s on the up and up.

Hiring an attorney for this task shouldn’t cost too much money, and it’s a worthwhile amount to pay in the long run to ensure that your will is legal and enforceable when the time comes.

List out Assets & Debts

While most people think of a will as a document to distribute the entirety of an asset to a party, you have to remember that your debts must be paid before your assets can be distributed.

This means, if you’ve got significant medical or consumer debt, your assets can be liquidated to help pay off those debts. This liquidation happens prior to the assets being finally distributed to your beneficiaries, meaning that some assets may not ever make it to the beneficiary if they’re needed to pay off your debts.

Don’t forget to consider other sentimental assets, such as family heirlooms and photographs, when making out your will. These items can become a source of conflict for some families, and designating the person or people to whom they’re supposed to go can decrease that conflict.

Name an Executor

An executor is someone you designate to manage the payoff of your debt and distribution of your assets. 

Many people choose a close family member, such as a child or sibling, as their executor. However, your executor doesn’t have to be someone related. It can be a family friend, or even an attorney (although appointing an attorney as executor comes with added cost that further diminishes the available assets).

When choosing your executor, it’s important that you choose someone you trust to carefully and honestly handle your will. You don’t want to appoint someone who will do a sloppy or dishonest job, causing more stress and financial strain on your family.

Name Guardians for Minor Children

If you still have minor children, or you have children with significant enough disabilities that they’re unlikely to be able to care for themselves in adulthood, it’s important that you name a guardian in your will.

This person should be someone you trust to care for your child with the least disruption to their current life as possible. If you do not name a guardian in your will, the state will name one for your child.

It’s also a good idea to name a backup guardian in the event that your first choice is unable to care for you children.

Don’t Worry About Assets That Already Name Beneficiaries

Many financial assets, such as life insurance policies and retirement accounts, require you to name beneficiaries in their paperwork.

In these situations, the beneficiaries named in the asset-holder’s official paperwork – your life insurance policy, for example – overrides any designation you may make in your will.

If you want your life insurance or retirement benefits to pass to someone different than those designated in these policies, then you must amend that paperwork to name the new beneficiaries.

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