Some people put off the job of preparing a will, mainly because they find it tough to think about end-of-life details. It is easier to think about the next family vacation or the next golf game. However, putting a will together is not such an onerous task if you work with an attorney experienced in estate planning matters, and you get organized before you and the lawyer meet.
1. Make a list of your assets
Getting organized includes making a list of your assets. These include your bank accounts, investments, credit cards, retirement funds and any other financial assets. You also want to add to the list any digital and biological assets. Digital assets might include domain names and any social media accounts through which you earn income. As to biological assets, if you have children that were conceived with the help of fertility treatments, frozen embryos may still exist, and these would be regarded as assets. Keep in mind that any joint property you own with your spouse, often your home or a joint bank account, is not included in your will. They pass to the survivor.
2. Name an executor and a spare
After your death, your executor is responsible for overseeing your estate, paying taxes and debts and ensuring that your inheritors receive those things that are stipulated in your will. If you should die without appointing one, the court will do so, and this may not be the person you would have named. You might choose your spouse, an adult child or a close relative, but someone in a professional capacity, such as an attorney, can also serve. The job of an executor may be easy or complicated, depending on the size and complexity of your estate, so choose carefully. You should also select an alternate, sometimes known as a successor representative, who can step up in the event the primary executor is unable to serve.
3. Choose a guardian
In thinking about the preparation of a will, people sometimes forget to make the appropriate provisions for minor children. If something unexpected were to happen-say you died in a plane crash or traffic accident-you certainly would not want the court to make decisions about the future of your children. Therefore, you should discuss the matter with a prospective guardian and if he or she is willing, ensure that this person is named in your will.
Rely on legal expertise
Remember that creating a will is not something you have to do by yourself. When you are ready to go to work on it, the attorney you choose can make the experience go more smoothly and quickly that you anticipated.