You may not like to think that you are going to die one day; however, taking the time to prepare a well-written document outlining how you would like your possessions and assets to be distributed after your death is key to avoiding conflict between your loved ones. Today we will explain how to draft and make a will in the United States in 10 steps.
Although you are acknowledging by writing a will that you will not live forever, it is important to put on record how you want your personal belongings and money to be distributed. If you’ve been procrastinating, this is a good opportunity to cross this item off your list.
In this article you will learn how to draft and make a will in the united states Step by Step:
- Decide if you want help or use a software program to do it yourself
- Select your beneficiaries
- Choose the executor of your will
- Choose a tutor for your children
- Be specific with what your beneficiaries will receive
- Be realistic about what each beneficiary receives
- If there is anything else you want to say, attach a letter to the will
- Other people must sign the will
- Find a place for your will
- Review and update your will
- 1 How to draft and make a will in the United States in 10 steps
- 1.1 1. Decide if you want to get help or use a software program to do it yourself
- 1.2 2. Select your beneficiaries
- 1.3 3. Choose an executor for your will
- 1.4 4. Choose a tutor for your children
- 1.5 5. Be specific with what your beneficiaries will receive
- 1.6 6. Be realistic about what each beneficiary receives
- 1.7 7. If there is anything else you want to say, attach a letter to the will
- 1.8 8. Other people need to sign the will
- 1.9 9. Find a place for your will
- 1.10 10. Review and update your will
How to draft and make a will in the United States in 10 steps
1. Decide if you want to get help or use a software program to do it yourself
Consider using the services of a trusted lawyer or online software to help you draft your will, instead of choosing to do it yourself.
Some of the software programs you can consider are:
- Quicken WillMaker & Trust
There are many terrible stories of people who wrote wills on their own with devastating financial consequences., such as burdening heirs with high legal costs and large taxes.
One of the best examples of why you shouldn’t write your own will comes from the late Warren Burger, a Supreme Court Justice. One would think that, with his experience, he could write a good will, but it was only 450 words long, vague and riddled with errors. His heirs spent a fortune on legal fees and more than $450,000 in taxes when they were finally able to collect on his estate.
If you’re a middle-class citizen with a fairly simple financial portfolio, you can probably write a will using an online legal site. But if you are upper middle class or have millions of dollars, we recommend hiring an estate attorney. While the price will depend on the complexity of your financial situation, you’ll likely pay a few thousand dollars. However, you can ensure that your assets will be protected.
2. Select your beneficiaries
When you die, someone will receive your money, your house and other belongings. You probably won’t have to think too hard about choosing your beneficiaries, but it’s key to ensure that your assets remain in the hands of whoever you want. If you use an online legal site, there will be a place to identify the beneficiaries on the last will and testament form; if you have a lawyer, he or she will write your will.
3. Choose an executor for your will
The executor will have the task of ensuring that the wishes of your will are carried out. Therefore, you must choose a person who is responsible. You may end up choosing your bank or a lawyer as your executor, in which case you’ll likely spend 2 to 4 percent of the assets in your estate. If you’ve nominated a family member or friend, experts say they should still be compensated, either through an hourly rate or a percentage of assets. After all, closing an estate can be a daunting task.
4. Choose a tutor for your children
As explained by professionals in the area, you do not need to obtain permission from your friend or family member before appointing them as guardians. But if you don’t, consider appointing three guardians in order of preference, advises Tara Wilson, an estate planning attorney practicing in Andover, Massachusetts. “Not everyone will be in a position to take on such a role at that point,” he says. It’s also a wise idea to appoint people to take over guardianship if, for example, a partner caring for your children dies or divorces, she adds.
5. Be specific with what your beneficiaries will receive
Don’t limit the information in your will. Don’t expect everyone to be clear about what you want. This can be especially difficult when you have had multiple marriages, and have your children and stepchildren on the same document.
Patrick Simasko, a senior attorney and estate preservation specialist at Simasko Law in Mount Clemens, Michigan, puts it this way: You can leave your estate to your third wife and hope that when she dies, your children will inherit your money. While that may sound right, Simasko says it won’t work that way if you give all your money to that third wife. In that case, she would inherit most of your assets and may want to leave it to her own children. And that would be their legal right, adds Simasko. “You have to realize that when she gets the inheritance, it’s hers and she can do whatever she wants with the money,” says Simasko.
This does not mean that you cannot design a will for your third wife and your children, but that is why a lawyer who knows what he is doing is so important.
6. Be realistic about what each beneficiary receives
Even if you’re determined to distribute your assets fairly, it’s not that simple, says Brian Decker, a financial planner and founder of Decker Retirement Planning Inc. with offices in Washington, California and Utah.
“Let’s say three of your children play the piano and you have only one piano. You cannot divide the musical instrument into equal parts. You also can’t partition your car, your house, your jewelry, and your artwork,” says Decker. Your heirs could sell assets like your house and car, he says. Still, instead of striving to make everything completely the same, Decker recommends talking to your heirs about your assets.
“This is the time when you call or email your kids and let them know that you’re not going to be in this world forever and if any of them have their eye on something other than the house and the car, to let you know so you can write it down and make sure they receive that item when you die.” That way your kids can’t victimize themselves and say the distribution wasn’t fair. Everyone got a chance to speak,” says Decker. He himself gives examples of items that your children may be saddened by if you indicate in the will that they should be sold, such as your wedding dress or your fishing equipment.
7. If there is anything else you want to say, attach a letter to the will
In TV shows and movies, there is often a will reading where the heirs get together and hear what they each get.. That doesn’t happen often in real life, though some estate planners report that clients sometimes enclose personal letters as a way of saying goodbye and making their wishes clear and personal.
8. Other people need to sign the will
You will need witnesses to sign your will, and in many states, the witnesses cannot be the heirs themselves.. Your witnesses must be at least 18 years of age. Ideally, they should be people who are close when you are not. If something goes wrong and your will is challenged in court, the judge may call a witness to testify. In most states, you will need two witnesses; in Vermont, three.
9. Find a place for your will
It won’t be enough to know how to draft and make a will in the united states. It would not make sense to create this document and then put it in a place where it will be forgotten.
You don’t want your family members to know you wrote a will but they can’t find it. Therefore, make sure that someone you trust knows where to find it, as well as any other important papers or the passwords of financial institutions such as banks, for example. It’s also a good idea to keep the original copy in a safe place, such as a fireproof safe.
10. Review and update your will
After you draft your will, it’s also a good idea to draft a power of attorney and a living will in case you ever become incapacitated. It’s also possible to update your will, especially after any major life event, such as a marriage, divorce, or birth. Otherwise, you could be leaving your assets to your ex-spouse, and none of your money and belongings to your children. Be sure to review and update the document every few years to reflect any changes needed after any major life event. In this way, you can ensure that your personal belongings are distributed according to your wishes.
now that you know how to draft and make a will in the united states, we recommend that you seek advice from a specialist lawyer and that you take into account all the steps that we have mentioned so that your will is respected.