You might think that wills are only for wealthy people, or maybe you are young and think you don’t need to write one yet.
According to Caring.com’s 2020 Estate Planning and Wills survey, only 1/3 of Americans over 18 (and only 1/2 of those over age 55) have a will. However, every adult can benefit from having a will, and having one already written will make things easier for those left behind when you pass away.
Wills don’t necessarily need to be complicated or cost a fortune. Here are 5 things to know as you start writing your will:
- Think about who and what are important to you
Start by asking yourself some philosophical questions:
- What are your most important values?
- What’s important to you?
- What are you grateful for?
Look at your life and determine who and what matter most. Where you spend your time and money may help reveal your priorities.
- Make a list of your assets
Next, take an inventory of everything you own and owe. List all of your assets, including real estate, investments, life insurance policies, stocks, bank accounts, and any other accounts. You’ll also want to include fine jewelry, artwork, collectibles, and other valuable items.
Next, write down contact information for legal or financial advisors with this list of assets and liabilities. You’ll also want to write a list of usernames and passwords to access important information in your mobile phone or computer, as well as safe deposit box information.
Store all of these items together in one place with your will, and make sure the right people know where this is kept and how to access it.
- Choose someone to be in charge
Every will needs an executor, who is the person in charge of carrying out what the will says.
Think of someone you consider trustworthy and fair. Make sure to ask and not assume that they will be willing to take on this responsibility.
Also, talk to the people you are leaving property to and explain how your things will be divided and why. Use this as an opportunity to answer questions and avoid surprises.
- There are several ways to create a will
Hiring a lawyer to help draft your will can help avoid a lot of problems, confusion, disputes, or even lawsuits. This is especially true of your situation is complex or you have significant assets.
A handwritten will (called a holographic will) is considered valid in some states, but not all. You can check with an attorney to see if they are valid in your state and whether or not you need it notarized or witnessed.
There are free or low cost online wills that can at least be a good starting point and help you think about what to address. Fill-in-the-blank wills specific to your state are available for free through sites like eForms, or you can use a LegalZoom document for a small fee.
Once you have completed your will, it’s still a good idea to have an attorney review this document. Print it out, sign it, have it witnessed and validated by a notary, and make sure to tell your loved ones where to find it.
- Don’t just phone it in
Too often, people put off writing their will and create a hasty document and make rushed decisions (which is still better than no will at all).
Be intentional and thoughtful. You can always go back and change your will as life changes. Create the legacy you want.
For help with your will and other estate planning documents, contact us at Wilson and Wilson Estate Planning and Elder Law, LLC at 708 482 7090 for our main office in LaGrange, Illinois or at 847 656 8958 for our Northbrook, Illinois office.