For starters, a will is a document that dictates how you would want your assets to be distributed after your death.
It also contains the names of the guardians who you would take care of a minor or minors you left behind. The absence of a will can be problematic for those you leave behind. However, something that several people do not know or understand is that you can create a will by yourself.
You do not need a lawyer to create it for you, especially if your financial situation is straight forward. It can be an easy feat for you since you do not require to name heirs who will receive benefits from life insurance and retirement accounts. Those already have the name of the beneficiary with your account.
Before getting down to write your will, you have to realize that it needs to meet some expectations for it to be termed as valid. Here are some of the most important details you need to include in the will.
- The will has to be clear
- It has to be unambiguous
- It has to be signed by you (the will-maker for that matter)
- It has to be signed by at least two witnesses.
- It has to be precise and formal.
If you choose to go the DIY way, you have first to research the laws of your state or country. These laws can get quirky. For instance, some states that handwritten will do not require any witnesses. Therefore, researching and understanding the laws will go a long way in avoiding problems and complications later.
You may also want to know whether or not your state or country has estate and inheritance taxes. This way, you will be able to plan for this adequately.
Here are some of the basics on HOW TO MAKE A WILL WITHOUT A LAWYER.
1. Go online and find a template or service that will help you make the will
Several governments and authorities recognize a handwritten will is valid. However, it will always be better if you are more formal. It won’t take long to do it, after all.
When you are online, you will find so many templates to choose from. If that is hard for you, you can also use online services that will walk you smoothly through the process.
The best thing about these online templates is that they are easy to use; you just have to fill in the information where it is needed.
One thing to note is that even if you and your spouse are planning to have identical wills, they have to be created separately for each individual.
2. List down all your assets
This step is very crucial. In order to distribute your assets, you first have to know what you own. Therefore, you should make a list of everything that you own. All your significant assets (for example, land, real estate, jewelry, cars, artwork, bank accounts without beneficiaries and many others) have to be written down.
There can be a case where you jointly own a real estate with another person. Here you may not be required to provide a beneficiary as the property will go to the joint owner or spouse.
As stated earlier, life insurance proceeds won’t require to be included in the list since you had already named beneficiaries within the account. Bank accounts with TOD (transfer on death) provision and stocks with POD (payable on death) provision won’t be included in the list too. You can name beneficiaries directly in the accounts.
Please note that you also have to list down the number of your children(who are alive) and provide their names
3. Be specific and straight to the point (as descriptive as you can be) when it comes to who gets what.
While writing your will, you should be as clear as possible about who receives a specific asset. Be specific in describing the asset too. This will help avoid confusion and fabrications by the parties due to receive the benefits. It is advisable that you use their full names.
Use the right language while writing your will. Spell out who you are and the purpose of your document. Use statements like “I declare this to be my last will and testament” and “I declare that I am of legal age while making this will and that I am writing it with a sound mind.” Avoid statements such as “my home goes to my daughter’. Write down the specific and legal names as well as addresses of the assets if necessary. All this will ensure that the will is taken seriously by the beneficiaries and courts as well.
Also, you can consider naming a secondary beneficiary for the assets since you might outlive the primary beneficiary.
4. Choose a guardian(s) if you have minor children
While writing the will, write the names of your minor children together with their birthdays. After that, name the person who will be taking care of your children as well as assuming all the legal responsibility for each of the kids.
Just as the previous tip, you can also name an alternative guardian in the event of you outliving the primary beneficiary. This way, you won’t have to update your will.
While deciding who takes the guardian role, you must appreciate the fact that this is a very crucial role. They will take full custody of your children. Choose a person that you are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that they are responsible, and your kids will be in good hands.
5. If you have a pet, give instructions concerning them
Most of the states and countries have made it illegal for a person to name a pet as a beneficiary in your will. Even though you might not be able to leave anything behind for them, the love you have towards them will probably make you want to make a solid plan for them. You will want your pet to taken care of even in your absence. You can name a guardian for it. It is also within the protocol to allocate some money to the beneficiary, which will cover any future costs.
6. Choose the executor
This is another crucial part of your will. An executor is very important as he will be responsible for distributing the property as you wanted. The executor acts as your estate’s personal representative. They will also be responsible for paying any remaining debts and bills that might have accrued. Also, an executor handles the role of transferring the titling of your assets. This is also known as probate.
You are not limited to one executor. You cam multiple of them, it is allowed.
7. List the funeral preferences of your choice
Many experts in the estate planning field recommend creating a separate document that includes this information. However, you can still add this information in your will. This consists of the information such as whether you would like to be cremated or buried or what you would want people to do in celebration of your life and achievements. While listing all your wishes, it is good that you remain realistic.
8. Name a residuary beneficiary
Who is a resident beneficiary? This is the party (can be a person or charity organization) that receives what is left off, if anything is, of your property after the executor is done with distributing assets and paying bills. The residuary beneficiary does not have to be anybody new; it can be someone who had already received a piece of the property.
9. Print out the will and have it signed
As we had stated earlier, an unsigned will is an invalid will. Even if you created your will through the online services, you would still be required to print it out and sign it yourself. After that, ask two people to act as witnesses and have them sign it too. They should be above the age of eighteen.
It is important to note that the witnesses should be disinterested. A disinterested witness is a person who is not described in your will as a beneficiary. After you have all signed, let your witnesses provide all their information and signatures on the appropriate lines.
Also, besides your name, you can print your current city or town of residence. Do not forget the date too.
10. Store it in a safe location.
After you are done creating your will, keep it in a safe place. You can also give it to a trusted relative to keep it for you. Also, ensure that the executor or at least one of the beneficiaries knows where the will is. They should also know the means to access it.
A lawyer is helpful in the process of will creation since you are sure and confident that it abides by all the state laws and regulations. However, their help isn’t so essential at the end of the day. As we have seen, it is easy to make one yourself. If you are feeling confident that you can navigate the laws and abide by every one of them, you can do it.