A will is an essential element of an estate plan. It specifies your wishes for distributing assets to your heirs, establishes guardianship preferences for dependent children, and stipulates your desires for post-death arrangements. A will protects your assets, allowing you to determine what happens to them after you die, and alleviates guardianship decisions for dependents if both parents die.
In many cases, drawing up a will is desirable, though it usually doesn’t shield an estate from probate. At AmeriEstate, we often recommend establishing both a living trust and a will, as each has advantages. However, to ensure your will is upheld in court, you need to know how to set up a will, what to consider before you do, and why you might also need a living will.
How To Set Up a Will
Your last will and testament is a legal document, but the court will invalidate it if you don’t set it up correctly. Furthermore, the more detailed the information you provide, the less likely the potential for conflict or asset oversights.
Creating a will isn’t as complex as establishing a trust. However, it is still an involved process when done right. One of the questions we often receive from our clients is, “How long does it take to set up a will?” The time it takes varies according to the extent and complexity of your estate and the skills of the person creating the will. To be as efficient as possible, follow these six steps for setting up a will.
1. Create a Record of Assets
Your will should account for all your assets. The first step in setting up a will is to compile a complete list of your property and financial holdings. Anything not included in your will is considered intestate, leaving it to the courts to determine who gets it. If you care about who receives an asset after your death, make sure you include it in the inventory.
It’s entirely reasonable to expect that you will acquire additional assets over time. Maintaining an ongoing inventory is a good idea. You can update your will when you accrue significant properties. However, you should also include a residuary clause specifying how to distribute assets not named in the will.
2. Identify Beneficiaries
The next step is to identify your beneficiaries. You can leave assets to family members, friends or organizations. However, if you and a spouse jointly own any property, your spouse will inherit it after you pass. Make sure you name alternative beneficiaries in case your first choice passes before you do. Additionally, if there is someone you specifically don’t want to inherit any of your estate, you can identify that person as well.
3. Choose an Executor
The Executor is the person who:
- Files your will with the probate court after you pass
- Oversees the probate process
- Pays off existing debts from your estate
- Distributes your assets upon completion of the probate process.
You must trust the person you choose to handle the responsibility. You’ll also want to discuss your decision with them and ensure they are willing to perform the tasks involved.
4. Choose a Guardian for Dependents
If you have minors or dependent adult children, your will should stipulate your preferences for who will serve as guardians if both parents are unable to provide care. The court will have the final say, but your choices are an important consideration. Be sure anyone you choose is willing and able to care for your dependents as you wish.
5. Plan for Your Pets’ Care
If you have pets, you’ll want to plan for their care after you pass. Legally, pets are property, not the family members you consider them. It’s a good idea to arrange new homes for them and specify who they will go to in your will.
6. Draft and Notarize Your Will
After organizing and making arrangements, it’s time to create the official document. While you can create a will without a lawyer, hiring one ensures your will adheres to state guidelines, contains necessary provisions, and exactly adheres to your wishes.
AmeriEstate’s team provides personalized and convenient services, making it easy to transition from learning how to set up a will to drafting one that will hold up in court. Upon completion of your will, we send the document to you in the hands of trained notaries who can answer any last-minute questions and officiate your signature.
What To Know About Living Wills
A living will is not the same as a will. A living will specifies your wishes for medical care if you become incapacitated. It provides directives for procedures and treatments you desire and will allow, as well as those you don’t. You can also indicate when you want medical practitioners to dispense care and under what circumstances “do not resuscitate” orders would apply.
Setting Up a Living Will
You may want to consider setting up your living will at the same time you establish your last will and testament to ensure this document is in place if the need arises. Before you create your living will, talk to your doctor about potential life-saving emergency procedures — such as CPR and assisted breathing — and what they entail. Your doctor can also help you understand how your decisions might impact your family.
A living will is an advanced care directive. As such, you’ll need to complete an acceptable form for your state. Depending on where you live, you may need to sign the document in front of a notary. AmeriEstate’s notaries can provide this service and notarize your last will and testament.
How To Set Up a Will With AmeriEstate
AmeriEstate specializes in advising and guiding people just like you through the estate planning process. We aim to make the process as easy, convenient and affordable as possible. We will customize your will to meet your unique needs while ensuring your document adheres to state guidelines where you live. Contact us today to find out more about how to set up a will with AmeriEstate.