Creating your will can be a task you avoid as you are admitting to your eventual death. Having a will becomes a priority for many Americans after the age of 50, according to the AARP, but planning ahead is always advisable. Regardless of your age, creating a will is an important part of your financial planning. It helps ensure that your loved ones are taken care of in case anything happens to you.
Writing your will helps you take care of the people you love. It helps you plan for their future financially and offers you comfort in knowing that you are safeguarding your assets and financially taking care of people you care about. A will helps you decide who gets what regarding your assets and property. (For more, see: What Is a Will and Why Do I Need One?)
What’s a Will?
In simple terms, a will is a document that helps you determine who will inherit or receive your assets and property, collectively called your estate. As the will’s writer, you are called the testator. Your estate can range in assets. It includes your property, financial assets and anything else you own, ranging from furniture to personal items.
The executor is the person who you select to be in charge of your estate upon your death and to execute the terms of your will. You can also declare a person a guardian. This person is put in charge of the care of any children and dependents you have. In your will, you can also designate what specific items, properties and assets go to whom. Finally, the person or people who receive parts of your estate (property, assets or other) is known as a beneficiary.
Below is a comprehensive list of the next steps you’ll need to take in creating your will.
1. Determine Properties to Include
Start by figuring out what your actual assets are. This process can be enlightening and informative, as you realize what is of true value and what is not. If you are married, you will each need to write your own separate wills.
2. Figure Out Who You Wish to Give Your Assets to
Determine who you want to give your assets to. It may be multiple people and even organizations. Figure it out. Have backups as well because death can be uncertain and people you may have chosen to be your will’s beneficiaries may not live beyond you. (For more, see: Why You Should Draft a Will.)
3. Select an Individual to Be in charge of Your Estate
A will has an executor or person that you choose to carry out the terms of the will. Figure out who you want this to be and check in with the person that he or she will do this for you and can be available to do so when needed.
4. Choose a Guardian for Your Children
If your children are under the age of 18, you must decide who you want to appoint as guardian to raise them in the event that you and or their other parent is not able to.
5. Get a Property Guardian or Trustee
Safeguard your children’s property by selecting someone you trust to be your property guardian or trustee.
6. Create the Will
Armed with all this information above, you can create your will. Take your time to do it right and read it several times. You can share your will with people you trust to get feedback as needed and to make sure you have thought comprehensively about everything you need. Many people use financial planning services to help them carefully draft out their wills.
7. Be Sure to Authorize Your Will With Witnesses
Sign your will with at least two witnesses present. You may also want to have a notary sign it if you decide to use the "self-proving affidavit" and simplify the final steps through probate court.
8. Keep Your Will in a Safe Place
Be sure to keep your will in a safe place. Your executor should know where it is and be able to get it when needed. (For more, see: Three Documents You Shouldn't Do Without.)