No one likes to think about their own demise, but we all know how important it is to create a will. Maybe you’ve been thinking about creating a will for some time now, but keep putting it off.
A will is necessary for anyone with assets or dependents that they may leave behind. Having a will in place can help ensure your family is well-provided for as well as to build generational wealth. If you feel like you’ve been meaning to make a will, the process doesn’t have to be long and tedious. In this article, we’ll talk about how and why you need a plan in place along with exactly how to create a will once and for all.
What Is a Will?
A will is basically a legal document that details your wishes for the distribution of your assets, the care of your children, and more after your death. It’s basically, a legal way to have a say in how your children and assets are handled even when you’re not around anymore.
When most people think about creating a will, they might think it’s not something they should do until they’re much older. Unfortunately, too many people die without a will in place because they thought they had more time. Without a will, a judge is usually responsible for deciding what to do with your estate and their decisions may not lie in the best interests of your or your loved ones. It’s much better to create a will early on and have it for several years or decades before it’s even needed.
In summary, a will can:
- Disclose who should take care of your children
- Who gets specific assets like your home and personal belongings
- Which charitable donations should be and how much
- How your bank account balances should be distributed
What’s The Difference Between a Will and Life Insurance?
Life insurance is much different from a will because a will decides how your existing assets will be distributed. On the other hand, life insurance provides a lump-sum payout or death benefit to your beneficiary or beneficiaries. Both are two separate things that don’t relate to each other.
Your life insurance beneficiary can’t be overridden by whoever you list in your will. They will receive the death benefit amount based on your policy if you pass away. With a will, you are able to disclose what happens to your financial accounts, investments, real estate, and possessions.
If you wish to change things when you’re still alive, you can update both your life insurance beneficiaries and your will separately.
Do You Need a Lawyer to Create a Will?
You can make a will on your own without a lawyer if you wish. There are tons of online resources to help you get started and serve as a guide on what to include. However, your will should be legally valid and recognized in a court of law. So you’ll need to state that it’s your ‘last will and testament in the document and include your full legal name. Also, state that you are writing it under no pressure and of your free will. This is very important to help ensure that courts recognize and honor your will so no one else can try to disprove it.
In addition, you also need to sign your will in front of witnesses. The document isn’t valid without your signature. Witnessing requirements vary by state so be sure to check your state’s specific requirements.
How to Create a Will Easily Online
Now, let’s talk about some of those handy online resources to help you get started. Two that are very popular are FreeWill and Trust & Will. Trust & Will says it can help you create a will in less than 10 minutes. Both sites make it easy to go through the process by breaking it up into clear steps so you can list your assets, determine charitable donations, and more.
FreeWill is actually free to use (hence the name and includes)
- Last will & testament
- Durable financial power of attorney
- Advance healthcare directive
- Charitable contributions
However, there is no legal services or customer support.
Trust & Will costs around $159 to create a will and this includes:
- Last Will & Testament
- HIPAA Authorization
- Power of Attorney
There is a live customer support team to answer your questions along with access to a licensed estate planning attorney. You can also make unlimited updates for $19 per year. With Trust & Will, you can get your will notarized when you sign it and I’m not sure if this is an option with FreeWill.
To summarize, here are a few important things you’ll want to include in your will.
Guardian For Minor Children (and Pets)
Determine who will take care of your minor children if you pass away. A legal guardian has the legal authority to care for your children so be sure to choose someone you trust. Consider naming an alternate legal guardian as well in case the first person you choose is unable to care for your children.
Also, don’t forget about your pets. Name a suitable guardian for your pets in your will so they don’t end up going to a pet shelter.
List of Assets
This includes your home, vehicle, family heirlooms, and other physical property. Also, list financial assets like your bank accounts, investments, retirement savings, and more.
Determine who will get each asset and list the full legal name of the person. If you’re donating an asset to a non-profit, be sure to include the EIN number. Also, consider secondary beneficiaries in the event you outlive your primary beneficiaries.
Choose a Residuary Beneficiary
This is someone who receives the remainder of your estate. This includes assets that have no listed beneficiary or that your primary beneficiaries didn’t want to claim. Your residuary beneficiary could be a charity of your choice.
Choose an Executor
An executor is someone who reads your will and carries out your final wishes. They will distribute your property and make sure everything goes as you planned.
Summary: Create a Will Sooner Than Later
Creating a will is not something you should put off. A will can help ensure the people who choose get some of your estate. In addition, it ensures your dependents can also be well cared for. Having this legal document in place means there will be less issues and confusion at court and your beneficiaries can get their assets sooner.
Given today’s technology, it’s very easy to create and notarize a will online. You can always update it in the future. Although, having something in place now allows you to protect your assets and build a legacy through your family.