Writing a Will
Published by: LifeWorks,
Planning for what will happen after you die can give you the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your loved ones will be cared for and your property will be distributed according to your wishes.
A key part of estate planning is the will, a legal document that designates to whom you wish your assets to go. If you have children and you die while they are still minors, your will also names a guardian who will take care of them and their needs.
If your estate isn’t complicated, you can draw up a basic will using one of the many do-it-yourself books or software programs available in stores and online, such as Nolo’s Quick & Legal Will Book or Quicken® WillMaker software. If you don’t make a will, the laws of the area in which you live will determine how your estate will be distributed to your spouse, children, or other surviving relatives. If you have don’t have any living relatives, your property will go to the government. If you have minor children and pass away without a will, a court will decide who will take care of them.
When preparing your will, keep the following in mind:
Choose your executor carefully. Sometimes called a personal representative or an administrator, the executor is the person you name in your will who will submit it for probate and then carry out the terms. Being an executor is a serious responsibility that includes tasks such as preparing an inventory of the estate, paying the debts and expenses of the estate, distributing assets, preparing tax returns, paying estate taxes (if applicable) and reporting to the court. When naming an executor, it is important to select someone who is responsible, detail-oriented, and willing.
You can change, revoke or replace your will as long as you are legally competent. It is a good idea to work with a lawyer to make sure that any changes, revocations or replacements will be considered valid.
Be sure to keep your will in a place that is safe and accessible. A safe-deposit box is not a good place because others may be prevented from opening it after your death unless they have a court order. Make sure that your lawyer and your executor each have copies of your will and that your executor knows where you keep the original.
Make a list of important information for your executor and family members. Be sure to tell your executor where to find the list, which should include the following:
- names, addresses and phone numbers of immediate family and friends, your employer, your lawyer, doctors, banker, accountant, financial advisor or broker, and insurance agent
- locations of important documents—for example, your will, property deeds, insurance policies or stock certificates
- safe-deposit boxes and keys
- bank accounts and account numbers, brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, credit card accounts and any loans
Remember: Estate planning laws vary by jurisdiction, so you should consider consulting with a lawyer licensed in your region about setting up plans that will work best for you.
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