Recent studies show that nearly 60 percent of all Americans don't have a will in place. Some people procrastinate when it comes to getting a will documented.
If you pass away in an unexpected accident without a will, it will only add to the stress and anguish your loved ones feel. There is a misconception that having a will laid out and certified by a legal professional is just too expensive.
The fact is that this process is extremely affordable and essential. One of the biggest questions most people have is what makes a will legal? While the answer to this question will vary, you basically need to get this document signed by a witness and certified by a legal professional.
The following are some of the most important things you need to understand about writing a last will and testament.
Understanding What a Will Is and What Makes a Will Legal
In essence, a will is a legal document that allows you to declare who handles your estate once you pass away. Not only does your estate consist of larger items like homes and cars, but smaller more sentimental items like your favorite watch and even family photographs.
The person you name to manage your estate is referred to as the executor. If you have minor children, your will also dictate who you want to take care of in the event of your untimely death.
You need to be aware that things like insurance policies and retirement accounts aren't covered by wills. Generally, you will be able to name a beneficiary of these accounts when they are opened. If you are not sure who the beneficiary of these accounts are, you need to call and check this out. As the years go by, you may need to change beneficiaries to protect yourself and your assets.
Don't Let the Laws Of Your State Dictate Who Gets Your Estate
If you pass away without a will in place, your estate will be settled in accordance to the laws in your particular state. Probate is a process that refers to the transference of property to your rightful heirs in the event of your death.
With no executor named to your estate, the judge will appoint an administrator. If the will you have in place is deemed to be invalid, the judge will also put in an administrator. The administrator that is appointed will more than likely be a stranger.
This means that the fate of your estate will rest in the hands of a person you have never met and who does not know what your wishes are. Instead of putting your loved ones through this difficult process, you need to get a will drafted right away.
Getting Legal Help is a Must
While you aren't required to have a lawyer prepare your will, it can be helpful to get some guidance from these legal professionals. A lawyer will be able to present you with a number of estate-planning strategies.
There are a number of DIY will kits online, but they are generally very confusing. Rather than making mistakes with this important document due to your lack of understanding, you should reach out to a lawyer for help. Before working with a particular attorney, be sure to check out their previous experience to ensure they are the right fit for the task at hand.
Married Couples Need to Decide Whether They Want Joint or Separate Wills
If you have a spouse, one of the first decisions you need to make regarding a will is whether to get a separate or joint document. Most estate planners and lawyers advise against joint wills. Many states in America don't even recognize joint wills as binding legal documents.
This is why getting separate wills is your best course of action. With a separate will, you and your spouse can divvy up property and address issues like inheritances for children from other marriages. You and your spouse need to be very detailed about who gets what property to ensure that your will don't end up in probate.
Getting a Witness For Your Will
Anyone can be a witness to your will. However, you probably need to select someone who is not listed as a beneficiary in this document. Failing to do this can lead to charges of conflict of interest in the future. There are some states that require a will to have two or more witnesses. You need to also avoid using the lawyer who drafts your will as a witness.
If you want to take this verification process to the next level, you can get your witness to sign a self-proving affidavit in front of a certified notary. With this document, your loved ones will be able to speed up the probate process due to the fact that the judge probably won't call the witness in to verify their signature.
Choosing the Right Executor
One of the toughest decisions you will make when having a will drafted is who to name as your executor. Most people choose their spouse or an adult child as their executor.
If the estate you are leaving behind is fairly complex, then it may make sense to name an attorney or financial advisor as your executor. You also have the option of naming joint executors if need be.
You need to make sure the wording in your will is clear on how you want the executor to use your money. Ideally, you will want to require that the executor pay off all of your bills before any other assets are divvied up. This can save your family a lot of trouble in the long run.
You Need to Seek Out Professional Help When Drafting a Will
With the right professional help, you can easily get answers to questions like what makes a will legal? Trying to draft this complicated document alone is usually a recipe for disaster.
Do you need help with your last will and testament? If so, contact our legal team today to find out more about the services we offer.