Drafting a will-what is the process?
Do I Need a Will?
A will is a significant document in every person’s life. It dictates many important situations and occurrences in the event of your passing away. Although drafting up a will while you are still alive may seem like a grim reminder and acceptance of the inevitability of death, it is still a very responsible thing to do and may offer some stability to your loved ones after you’re gone.
When you make up your mind about creating a will, you need to decide what kind of properties you will include in the will. Since it is going to be a legally notarized document, it will need some preparation beforehand. Have a clear sight of what you want to include in your will and develop a plan either in your mind or make a rough draft somewhere. Gather all the important documents that are related to assets and properties that you wish to list in your will.
You’ll need to determine whether you will use the services of an attorney or not, who will execute the contents of your will after you pass away, who will be the beneficiaries of your will, etc.
Which Property Will You Include?
Delegating who will take your property requires some serious consideration. As the owner of properties and estates, you will want to leave all of it in good hands. You must make sure that you list all your significant assets in your will. Not everyone will be well-versed in the intricacies of will-making, so if you don’t feel confident about doing it, you should employ the service of a lawyer to do it. If you are married, then each spouse has to make a separate will. You can only leave the share of assets owned by you.
Some documents required for drafting your will:
Choose Who Will Inherit the Property
Typically, people leave property to their children and spouse. Sometimes, other members of the family, such as siblings or children of siblings, also appear as beneficiaries. At times, even trusted friends, close confidantes, and even long-time employees are listed in many wills.
No matter who you include in your will, you should be rational about it. Use your head rather than your heart. For various reasons, you may not want to include either your spouse or children in your will. It may either be because you had a fallout with them or maybe because you deem them unfit for inheriting your property. Whichever is the case, do not make such decisions in a whim because you may end up regretting it.
Choose alternate beneficiaries, and if you have excluded your spouse and children from your will, then make sure you notarize in a foolproof manner. Later your family may contest the will as legally, one’s immediate family is supposed to inherit one’s property. Make sure to include your decision in a firm and assuring manner that leaves no space for later misinterpretation.
Appoint An Executor to Your Estate
An executor of a will is an individual who will be responsible for carrying out the terms as laid down in the document after your passing. Their duty is to see to it that every beneficiary gets what they are entitled to, and nobody is excluded from the inheritance.
This job doesn’t need any specialized training, and you can choose whoever you want to carry it out. It can be a lawyer of your choosing or even a family member or friend. The only thing that you have to look out for while choosing a benefactor is whether they’re responsible enough!. You shouldn’t go for a corporate trustee as the executor of your will because of the expense. They usually charge a small percent of the assets every year, even if they’re doing nothing.
Usually, people select their bank or lawyer as the executor, as being an executor can be a tedious job and requires suitable compensation.
Decide A Guardian for Your Kids
If you have children who are minor or are diagnosed with conditions that deem them unfit for taking care of themselves, then you have to choose a guardian for them. The guardian that you choose doesn’t have to be legally notified of your choosing them with the task, but it is always better if you do to save some ordeal on your child who might be neglected because the guardian you chose is unwilling to fulfill their responsibility.
Often, multiple guardians or “spare” guardians are chosen so that if one doesn’t want to or is unable to take up the task, then another surely will. Since it is the case of your kids who are dependent on you, it is your prime responsibility to secure their future and make sure they’re around good and responsible people.
Be Very Specific About Everyone’s Shares
Now, this is a very important step in drafting a will. Once again, you are advised to use good sense while dividing your property among the beneficiaries. You might think that your friends and family will interpret your will exactly how you have it in your mind, but in reality, it may well be far from that. Therefore, be very clear about who gets what from your property.
Squabbles over property and inheritance is not an uncommon thing, and the best way to avoid it is to lay out very clearly about each beneficiary’s share.
Be Realistic About the Shares of Your Property
Making a will while being alive and healthy may already be a touchy issue with many, as by drafting a will, you’re essentially accepting inevitable death. Another touchy topic can be dividing your tangible and intangible properties being divided equally among your children. Consider carefully who gets what. Discord on the division of property has always been one of the chief reasons why siblings fall out with each other after a parent’s death.
Be practical while deciding this clause so that it may prevent future disharmony.
Think about Who Will Manage Your Children’s Property?
Minors and some specially-abled children need someone to manage the property they have inherited. Such managers of property can be called property guardians or property custodians. Their responsibility is to manage the property your children have inherited until they become of age or are declared to be fit for managing their assets.
Needless to say, the person you choose as a property guardian has to be a responsible, respectable, and credible individual who will not cheat your children off their inheritance.
Make Your Will
Finally, you have to start making the will that you have prepared so thoroughly for. By using all the details that have already been mentioned above, you can start writing your will. The document can have multiple drafts, so even if you make a mistake, you can just amend and notarize it again.
Writing your own will can benefit you in a sense; you can draft on your own to add a personal touch. You may not feel confident about your draft, so you can simply consult an attorney for a fee. The attorney will review and edit your will to make it appropriate. You can also just hire an attorney to write your will for you.
Many may feel reluctant about getting someone else to write their will as they will be privy to almost all your personal information. But an attorney is bound by the lawyer-client privilege, which prevents the lawyer from disclosing any information he might have gained while working with his clients.
Sign Your Will in Front of Witnesses
A witness is a person who is present while a person signs and authorizes his will as valid. They are also required to sign the will along with the owner. The purpose of a witness is to make sure that the testator is of sound mind and has full intent of making the will. Later if someone contests the provisions of the will, the witness can testify and prove the authenticity of the will. At least two witnesses are required, and sometimes their signatures are notarized too.
Attach A Letter to The Will
The language of the will is usually highly technical and composed of legal jargon. It seldom preserves the thought that went behind while writing it, such that it loses its personal touch. This is why many also attach a personal letter with their will, meant for the beneficiaries in the very language of the person to whom the will belongs.
This is, of course, optional and by no means mandatory. Yet some do it as a last goodbye of sorts and explaining the contents of the will to the near ones of the deceased. The executor of the will is responsible for reading out the letter to the relevant people. These personal letters are also at times simply handed out by the executor for the addressed to read privately.
Make Sure You Store Your Will Safely
You can either store your will in physical format or electronic format. Storing your will in a safe place such as a fireproof safe or a safely guarded vault is important. There have been plenty of cases where people with extensive property had their will stolen and forged to formulate a new will for someone’s selfish gains. Everyone around you does not need to know where you keep the will. One or two close confidants should be aware in case you are unable to disclose the location before your death.
You can also store your will in electronic format, but to do so, there are some requirements to be met. For example, the will should be in text format. Audio or video wills are considered invalid. There are also strict regulations about whether the witness was remote or physically present.
You can also entrust your bank with storing your will or just keep it at the bank’s vault that is linked to your account and is there for your personal use.
Update Your Will Throughout the Years
Typically, you should be updating and reviewing your will every four or five years, according to legal experts. The very simple yet poignant reason behind this is the fact that the course of life is hardly constant. Many unexpected events can occur in the span of five years, such as the death of a family member, divorce of a spouse.
Apart from this, you may acquire new property or lose already owned property, and these events also need to be updated in the will for it to be valid. Thus, every five years, it is strongly recommended that you review and update the contents of your will.
One frequently asked question by many is what happens if you die without a will? What happens is, the state takes up the responsibility of dividing your property among the members of your family. This may not be in accordance with your wishes, and therefore it is always advised that you make a will while you are still alive and healthy, especially if your property value is a lot.
However, if you do die without making a will, then your property or property automatically passes to your spouse. If you don’t have a spouse, then your children inherit everything. In case you have neither, your nearest blood relative will get your inheritance, and if you have no blood relatives at all, the state will take ownership of your property. Therefore, always make a will with the help of the detailed steps as explained above.