When you pass away, your Last Will and Testament will guide many important decisions, including who will execute your estate (including how that estate will pay any debts or taxes), who gets your property, and who will take care of any minor children you've left behind. As such, it's important that you create a will. Not sure how to get started? Today we'll discuss 8 simple steps to writing a will.
Step 1 of Writing a Will: List Any Significant Assets
The first step in writing a will is to list any significant assets you may have. Once you've done that, you can then decide which items can be left to others outside of the will. For example, if there are certain pieces of furniture that you really want your children or grandchildren to have, you might consider giving those pieces away before you die OR tagging each item with the name of the person it should go to.
If you are married, each spouse should make their own will, but you can only leave your share of assets that you own jointly with your spouse.
Step 2 of Writing a Will: Determine Who Will Inherit Your Property
For many people, deciding who gets what property isn't a terribly difficult decision, especially if you are married and/or have children. However, if you choose to leave your spouse or children out of the will, it can get tricky. Either way, make sure that you also choose alternate or contingent beneficiaries in the event that your primary beneficiaries pass before you.
Step 3 of Writing a Will: Name an Executor to Carry Out the Terms of Your Will
Next, you will name an executor to carry out the terms of your will. The executor is responsible for overseeing the probate process, distributing assets, and making sure that your debts or taxes are paid. The executor isn't required to have any specific training as they should hire an estate attorney in Raleigh to assist. However, whoever you name to handle your estate should be a willing participant. Be sure that you have a conversation with whoever you choose to discuss their role.
Step 4 of Writing a Will: Choose Guardians for Your Minor Children
If you have children who are still minors, it's important that you have a decision in who will raise them should you or the other parent be unable to for any reason. We recognize that this is not a decision that should be taken lightly, so be sure to put some considerable thought into who you choose as a guardian. You can modify this decision later if the circumstances of your or your children's lives change.
Step 5 of Writing a Will: Choose a Property Guardian or Custodian to Manage Children's Property
Similarly related to the previous point, if you plan to leave any property behind to your children and they are minors at the time you write your will, you should also plan to choose an adult to manage whatever assets or property they inherit upon your death. This person could be the same person you've chosen to raise your children or someone you believe will be more financially capable of making decisions regarding their inheritance. You can also determine at what age your children's inheritance can be delivered.
Step 6 of Writing a Will: Write Your Will
Once you've worked through the previous steps, you can now write your will. With regard to how you write the will though, you have options.
- You can hire an estate attorney in Raleigh. Just as you may have chosen an estate attorney to help you create an estate plan, you may want to continue working with your attorney to write your will. This creates continuity between plans.
- You can also use a statutory form. Some states provide a standard will form that you can fill out if you're a resident of that state. Unfortunately, North Carolina is not one of those states. However, there are a number of simple statutory will forms available that you can use as a baseline.
- You can also just write a will yourself. The DIY route isn't for everyone (especially if you have complex debt, business holdings or family conflict), but if you have a simple estate with straightforward wishes, there is nothing preventing you from writing a will yourself. We've found some really sweet handwritten wills over the years that perfectly describe how people want their property to be divided amongst family.
Step 7 of Writing a Will: Sign Your Will in Front of Witnesses
Once you've written your will, in order to make it official, you'll need to sign it in the presence of at least two able witnesses (similar to witnesses at a wedding). Also, if you're using a document called a "self-proving affidavit" along with your will, your signature must be notarized.
Step 8 of Writing a Will: Safely Store Your Will
Now that your will is written and signed, you should put it in an envelope, mark it and store it somewhere safe. Some people choose to put their will in a safety deposit box, along with any other important documents; but a file cabinet or desk drawer is also sufficient. Then make sure that you share this location with your executor so they can find it upon your passing.
HIRE AN ESTATE ATTORNEY IN RALEIGH TO ASSIST WITH WRITING YOUR WILL
Contact our estate lawyer in Raleigh, NC to schedule a consultation if you have yet to write your Last Will and Testament. In addition to estate planning, our lawyer is here to help you with all your small business needs, trademarking, copyrighting, or other legal issues.