by Brandy Abalos

The thought of drafting a will intimidates some people. They often think it’s a complicated process involving a lot of legal documents. While it is true that a will is a legal document, creating one doesn’t have to be overly challenging.

Where to Start with Preparing a Will

Preparing a will can be daunting, but it does not have to be complicated. Here are a few steps to get started:

  1. Gather necessary information.This information includes assets, liabilities and a list of loved ones. Many people include funeral arrangements and any other specific instructions they have for their estate.
  2. Decide how to distribute assets. Deciding who will be a beneficiary and which beneficiary will inherit what is the most important part of creating a will.
  3. Choose an executor. An executor is the person who will ensure the will is followed. Consider who is the most trustworthy and able to handle the task.
  4. Write the will. Some people choose to write their own will, while others seek assistance from an estate planning attorney. Those who write their own will should look at their state’s requirements before they begin.
  5. Sign and witness the will. The testator and at least two witnesses (in most states) must sign the will. Witnesses must be at least 18 years old and not beneficiaries of the will, meaning they must be neutral third parties who will not inherit anything from the will.

Common Misconceptions About Wills

Many people don’t have a clear understanding of what wills are and how they function. Here are a few common misconceptions about wills.

  • Only Wealthy People Need Wills
    • Everyone should have a will, even if they don’t have many assets. A will can guide beneficiaries to distribute belongings according to the testator’s wishes and to avoid probate court. It can also prevent complications and conflict.
  • Young People Don’t Need Wills
    • No one knows what will happen. Accidents and unexpected events can happen at any age. That’s why having an estate plan that includes a will to carry out one’s wishes is crucial. »
  • Person’s Spouse Will Automatically Inherit Everything
    • Some people think their spouse will automatically inherit everything if they don’t have a will, which is not always true. State intestacy laws will determine who inherits a person’s property if that person does not have a will. These laws may not reflect the decedent’s wishes and may lead to conflict among their loved ones.
  • Parents of Minor Children Don’t Need a Will
    • The court will choose a guardian for minor children if their guardian does not have a will. This appointed guardian may not be the person the decedent would have chosen. By writing a will, the testator can nominate the guardian of their choice.
  • A Will Cannot Be Changed
    • A will can be changed anytime, but it is essential to do so correctly. If a person changes their will without following the legal requirements, the changes may not be valid.
  • Drafting a Will is Expensive
    • Many people write their own will and hire an estate planning attorney to help if needed. There many resources on self-written will are available online and in libraries. The cost of hiring an attorney depends on how complex the estate is.

When to Consider Making or Changing a Will

While everyone should have a will, it’s imperative to draft one or make changes during certain life events, including the following:

  • Upon turning 18
  • Marriage
  • Having or adopting children
  • Divorce
  • Retirement
  • Illness
  • Acquisition of significant assets
  • Disposition of assets

These are not the only times to consider an estate plan, there are situations when an issue may arise.