A will, or "last will and testament," is an important document to have. It is meant to carry out your final wishes but only when done right. There are online templates available, but the best way to handle writing a will is with the help of an attorney. Here are three things that should be spelled out in your will so you can be sure everyone is provided for and all your assets are properly distributed.
Guardian for Children
If you have minor children or an adult dependent with a disability, you'll need to appoint a guardian for them. Talk with the person (or couple) first, and make sure they're on board. You'll also need to take into account their age and health. In other words, you may feel as though you only trust your elderly mother to care for your little ones. After all, she's the one who watches them when you go shopping or don't feel well. But that doesn't mean that she can raise them full-time if something were to happen to you. You might have an aunt or a cousin about your age that would be a better fit.
Guardians do not have to be family. They only need to be a legal adult that you trust, who is capable of fulfilling the role, and who has a genuine interest in your child's well being. You can and should appoint an alternate in case they are unable to be a guardian, if and when the time comes. And you can choose a different guardian for each child if you have more than one.
If you have any reason to suspect that a judge may question why you have appointed the person as guardian, you should write a letter that explains why that person was chosen.
One of the most important parts of your will is the section that covers how your assets will be distributed. If you have no idea where to begin, consider asking your friends and heirs what they would like from your estate, if anything. Then make a list of everything you own, along with their value, and who they should go to. It's also a good idea to let your relatives know ahead of time who is getting what so there aren't any surprises. Fighting over family heirlooms is a common problem when a family member dies, and handling this ahead of time can save your loved ones a lot of heartache.
It's unfortunate, but some people have family members that they expressly do not want to include in their will. If this is the case with you, those relatives need to be named as exclusions in your will. Otherwise, it's possible they could have a legal right to claim certain items.
Special considerations for real property: If you own real estate with someone else, like a spouse, and that person survives, they will usually inherit the property if they have "right of survivorship." But this isn't always the case, particularly if you own as "tenants in common." It's important to consult with an attorney that can advise you on how to handle the distribution of real property in your will.
An executor of a will is the person tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that your wishes are carried out. But they will also be responsible for communicating with any of your creditors and making sure any money you owed is paid off. Needless to say, choosing an executor is a big responsibility but one that cannot be overlooked.
So who should you appoint? It doesn't need to be a lawyer or even someone well-versed in financials, but it should be a person that is capable of fulfilling the role with integrity and diligence. Obviously, you will want to appoint someone you trust. But don't feel compelled to appoint a family member. At times they can be easily swayed by other family members who may not agree with the will itself. Therefore, someone trustworthy and impartial is a good choice.
If you appoint one or more trustees, make absolutely certain that those two people get along. And as with the guardian, it's also a good idea to name an alternate if the first person isn't able to serve as your executor for any reason.
Reach out to a lawyer, such as Leon J Teichner & Associates, P.C., for more information and guidance.