Stories of celebrities who died without a will — accidentally disinheriting family members — have dominated the news. But even if you’re not a celebrity, documenting your final wishes to protect your family is a must-do. Here’s how to get started making a will.
Why a will is important
A will is a key part of your financial future and a cornerstone of your estate plan. It guides the distribution of your assets upon your death. Whether you’re married or single, a will could help prevent family feuds and expensive court proceedings. If you die without a will in place, state laws dictate how your property gets divided.
A will allows you to assign an executor to handle the distribution of your assets, name guardians for your kids and pets, provide funeral directions, and more.
You may not need a lawyer to create a will; online DIY wills are available. However, if your situation is complicated or you don’t feel comfortable creating this important directive on your own, seek in-person help.
Get ready to draft your will
Before starting the process, document key parts of your life.
- Determine your assets: Gather documents for real estate, savings and checking accounts, investments, life insurance policies and retirement plan accounts.
- List your debt: Document mortgages, car loans, credit card debt and any other personal debt you may have.
- Gather key family details: List names, addresses and birth dates for yourself; your spouse/partner, if applicable; children and their proposed guardian, if necessary; beneficiaries who will be mentioned; and the person you choose as executor of your will.
What to do after creating a will
Sign and date your completed will in front of a notary public. Next, you’ll need to gather the signatures of two impartial witnesses. They will also sign the document in front of a notary public. Preferably, witnesses are not your heirs. If using an attorney, the staff will handle all of these details, including making and distributing copies later.
With a DIY will, you’ll be responsible for making and distributing copies. Finally, experts recommend you give one copy to your executor, keep another in a fireproof safe at home and store the third copy in an offsite location like a safe deposit box.
August is Make a Will Month. There’s no better time to get started.
Article provided by Local Government Federal Credit Union.
The advice provided is for information purposes only. Contact an attorney for additional guidance.