Preparing a will is one way to ensure that your property will go to the people you choose to have it after your death. If you have no minor children and few assets, you may be able to prepare your will yourself. However, it may sometimes be best to consult an attorney before attempting to prepare your will in order to fully understand the laws that govern wills in your state. An attorney can also prepare your will for you.
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According to MetLife, your planning should include listing your assets and debts, listing those to whom you might want to leave your property, and carefully considering who should receive what. You may want your will to specify how to pay your debts, set up a trust for your children or grandchildren, or provide for a disabled family member. Consulting an attorney at this stage can help you learn how to set up a will that best provides for your beneficiaries.
Choosing an Executor
An executor, known in some states as a personal representative, is the person who will carry out the instructions in your will when you die. Choosing the best executor for your will depends on your particular circumstances, according to the American Bar Association. For instance, if you are leaving a small amount of money or property to one main beneficiary, such as your spouse, you may want to name your spouse as executor. If you have a large estate or are concerned that your beneficiaries will contest the will, however, it may make sense to appoint an executor who is not a beneficiary. You may also wish to name a contingent or backup executor in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to serve after your death.
With very few exceptions, wills in every state must be in writing. You may type your will or write it longhand, and you may use a blank piece of paper or a preprinted will form, according to FindLaw. There is no specific form a will must take, but at a minimum, it should include your name and the date, a statement that this is your will and it revokes any prior wills, the name of your executor, instructions on who should receive your property, your signature and the signatures of at least two witnesses.
Signing and Witnessing
In order for your will to be valid, in most states it must be signed by you and by at least two witnesses. Some states have specific rules about who may serve as a witness, so you may want to consult an attorney before choosing your witnesses to ensure they may legally witness your will in your state. You may also choose to have your will notarized, but a notarization does not replace the need for two witnesses, according to FindLaw. In order to prevent multiple copies of your will from confusing matters after you are gone, only sign and have witnessed one copy of your will, and destroy any previous wills.
Store your will in a safe place once it's signed and witnessed. Leave it in a safe or a safety deposit box, but since some state laws require your safety deposit box to be sealed on your death, make sure your executor will be able to access the box containing your will. If an attorney prepares your will, leave an unsigned copy with your attorney along with a note stating where the original is located. Tell your executor and other close family members where they can find your will.
References & Resources
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