It is an unpleasant fact of life that eventually we will all need a will. But it doesn’t have to be a chore. With a little basic information you can get it done and pack it away for what will hopefully be a long, long time.
So, let’s start with 10 basic questions about wills:
- What is a will exactly? A will is a legal document detailing what is to be done with your money and property after you die.
- What happens if I don’t have one when I die? When you die without a will you become “Intestate”. When you are Intestate the laws of your state will govern how your money and possessions will be passed on and to whom. The process of transferring ownership in this way is called Probate.
- Do I have to involve an attorney to draw up my will? No, it is not required but as in most legal proceedings, it is recommended. There are many do it yourself kits available for purchase and download but as long as it keeps in line with your states legal requirements, it will be valid even if you write it on a bar napkin.
- Should I have a joint will or keep it separate? Consult with an attorney for specific advice but as a rule, joint wills are never a good idea. Some states do not even recognize them as a valid will. Mainly because you and your spouse will hopefully not die at the same time so a joint will would cloud the issue of inheritance and ownership.
- Why do I need a witness and who should I choose? To be valid your will has to be witnessed. Anyone can be a witness but you should choose what’s called a disinterested witness. This means that they aren’t a beneficiary so there will be no conflict of interest.
- Is the executor important? The executor will be the person making sure your wishes are carried out and your debts are settled. It can be anyone you trust but if you have a complicated will you may want to hire an experienced attorney as the executor.
- How do I make sure things get to the right person? You can create a Letter of Instruction to be included with your will.
- Where can I store my will for later? A safety deposit box is the best choice but you can also store copies with your attorney.
- How often should I update it? That’s up to you but you should definitely review it after any major life change.
- Can anyone contest my will? Any beneficiaries that feel wronged can contest your will. The best way to avoid this is to have a clear and well drafted will.
To learn more about writing a will, and to get assistance with the process don’t hesitate to contact our attorneys at Slepian, Schwartz & Landgaard today.