Leaving a last will and testament will help finalize your financial affairs for any children under the age of 18, your spouse or other family members. If you have more than one property, large amounts of assets, a business or several types of income streams, then you'll want to seek assistance from an attorney to write a detailed will. You can write a simple will using forms found in stationary stores or templates downloadable online.
Make a list of all of your assets and liabilities in two columns. Assets include any items worth value, including properties, timeshares, vehicles, boats, aircraft, collections, collectibles, jewelry, stocks and individual retirement accounts. Liabilities include bills that you owe other than real estate, such as installment loans, credit card loans and student loans.
Write down in a third column the names of those you want to give each asset to. If you want to leave partial amounts to different people, note the full names of those people and write down how much of your assets you want to give to each one in percentage terms. This is to allow for changing values of your assets from now to the time your assets are dispersed. For example, "Noel-50 percent, Jack-25 percent and Lorie 25 percent."
Name two guardians for your underage children, one the primary caregiver and the second in case the first is unwilling or unable to care for your children at the time of your death. You can name anybody of your choosing to be a guardian; however, it is advisable that you seek his permission first. You don't want to have that person deny your final requests after your death because he has no desire to care for your children or does not have the resources to.
Name two executors of your estate. The first will be your primary choice and the second will act as a back up if the first one cannot or won't make sure your assets are liquidated and dispersed. You can choose anybody you want to be the executor of your estate; however, you should choose someone who is preferably close to you and someone who is trustworthy and fair in his behaviors and decision making. Talk with this person to see if he is willing to be in charge of making sure the provisions in your will are carried out after your death prior to naming him as your executor.
Choose an executor of the assets being given to your children. Your children will not be able to manage the assets until the age of 18 or 19 depending on the state. The executor for your children's assets could be and in most cases will be the guardian you've named for your children. However, in a situation where one person would be required by law to be the guardian of your children, such as a biological parent in the cases of divorced families, but whom you do not necessarily trust or want to trust with large sums of money, you would name a separate executor for the children's assets. The guardian would then have to access funds meant for the children by going through the named executor of your will. This ensures that the funds meant to assist the children actually go towards the proper care of the children rather than on frivolous spending.
Sign your will in front of the number of witnesses required by the laws in your state and have it notarized if required.
Make three copies of your will and store one in a safe place, give one to your attorney and one the executor of your estate.
- Physically destroy any other copies of your will that you may have. Your current will may contain language that says, "This will revokes any all other previous copies," or something similar but having more than one copy of a non-current will lying around will not guarantee the verbiage to be enforced.
- If you are married, each spouse should make his or her own separate wills. This is to protect your assets and the guardianship of your underage children if you both perish simultaneously. There is no such thing as a "combined" will for married couples. To eradicate confusion on who guardians and executors of estates should be, each spouse should name the same persons for those positions in his and her own will.
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