How to Write a Will

End of Life Management Toolkit #1 | by Team Passare and Robert L. Shepard and Y Collaborative

2. Steps to Drafting a Will

When thinking about how to write a will, start by looking at what you own and how you want to disperse these assets in the case of your death.

Step 1: Write an inventory of your assets.

Break your inventory into 3 asset categories:

Physical
  • Physical assets could be large such as your house, land, cars, or small, such as jewelry, books, and computers.
  • You can be specific, such as “Grandmother’s hutch in the dining room” or be more general, such as “all furniture in the house.”
Financial
  • Financial assets include cash, bank accounts, stocks and bonds, retirement funds, etc.
Digital
  • Digital assets include social media login information, online retail accounts, photo sharing accounts, PayPal, blogs and domain names. Keep in mind the less specific you are, the more room for misinterpretation and disagreement when you are gone.
Step 2: Determine who are the beneficiaries and inheritors.
  • Make a list of people to whom you want to give your assets.
  • You may want to consider who will most need money when you pass away, such as dependents, family member with special needs, and requirements of a spouse.
  • Are there any organizations or institutions you want to receive part of your assets?
Step 3: Allocate your assets to the people you have identified.
  • If an asset is to be shared or distributed among 2 or more people, you can assign percentages or the conditions of the distribution. For example, you can state 50% of savings goes to your spouse, and 25% to each of two siblings. You could also use actual dollar amounts.
  • A condition might be if a recipient is still in college at the time of your death, she receives a specific amount to cover tuition.
Step 4: Assign a primary Executor and a secondary Executor if the primary is unable to serve.
  • The Executor is in charge of carrying out your instructions in the will.
  • He or she should know where the will is stored.
Step 5: Assign a guardian for children under the age of 18 years of age.
  • Be clear about guardianship.
  • Make provisions for what you want to happen if the other parent is unable to assume guardianship.
  • Guardianship is especially important if you are divorced and believe the other biological parent is unsuitable.

Helpful Hint: Consider hiring a lawyer specializing in estate plans, trusts and wills. A lawyer can provide professional expertise to navigate complex state laws and estate taxes. If you write your will yourself, you might ask a lawyer to review your draft to identify any oversights that should be corrected.

Common oversights while writing a will include:
  • Lack of capacity: Intoxication or mental incapacity such that the party did not understand the meaning and effect of the words comprised in the will.
  • Undue influence: Improper influence by others that compromises the decisions made by you when drafting a will.
  • Fraud: Un-witnessed or invalid pages are inserted after the will has been created.
  • Executor is not assigned.
  • Will is not dated or signed by at least two witnesses.

Helpful Hint: A will can be amended at anytime as long as you are mentally and physically able to understand
and sign the document.

Take a few minutes now to answer these questions.
  1. Who are the people I’d like to remember in my will?
  2. What are my most important assets and belongings thatI’d like to be sure are distributed to the
    appropriate people?
  3. How will my family and loved ones benefit if I have a will?

 

Myth or Fact?
Only 30% of Americans have wills.
Odds are the other 70% don’t think they need one.
Myth #1:
I don’t own enough to worry about a will.
Fact:
It doesn’t matter how much you make or how much you own to write a will. A will
expresses your wishes for end-of- life affairs.
Myth #2:
Everything I own will go to my spouse so I don’t need a will.
Fact:
Unless stated as a beneficiary or inheritor in your will, your spouse is not always
considered next of kin. The property that you own in your own name is distributed according to your state’s
law of descent and distributions unless otherwise stated in your will.
Myth #3:
It’s too expensive to make a will.
Fact:
Writing a will is free. However, many people choose to seek legal council to assist them.
Legal fees will vary depending on the attorney.
Myth #4:
I’m going to do it, but there’s no hurry. I’m in good health and still
young.
Fact:
Life can end without warning.
Myth #5:
Making a will is tempting fate. It’s better to not think about it.
Fact:
Talking about death doesn’t kill you.

 

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