A will is a critical legal document and one of the best ways to ensure your wishes are followed after your death. A will determines not only what happens to your assets and how property is distributed, but it can also direct what happens to your children, pets - even your debts. While it may be emotionally difficult to consider your own mortality, thinking about what you want to happen is the first step toward making it happen. Here are 6 steps to consider as you prepare a will.
1. Gather Your Thoughts.
The will directs what happens to property after the owner's death. But wills can also have a strong emotional impact on loved ones. Take a moment to think about those who will need to be taken care of. Make a list. Who will have custody of your minor children? Who gets the deed to the family house? Who will take care of Mr. Sprinkles, the family cat? The list should include everyone and anyone you wish to participate in the execution of your estate.
2. Take Inventory.
Make a list of everything you (and if applicable, your spouse) own. To the extent you can, note how you own each asset-as husband and wife, as a partner, as a joint owner with siblings, etc. Note any other parties who also have an interest in your assets. Make a note of your debts, too.
3. Divide Your Assets.
As your list of assets comes together, start making notes on how everything should be divided. If you want a family heirloom or amount of money to go to a certain friend or organization, this is the time to specify.
4. Select a Personal Representative.
The Personal Representative (known as an "Executor" in some states) is the person responsible for making sure your wishes are honored after your death. This person will also be responsible for taking care of any legal paperwork. It is recommended that you select a back-up Personal Representative in the event your first choice is unable to carry out his or her duties under your will.
5. Make it Official.
Consult your attorney to make your will official. In addition to being able to draft a Will to best suit your needs, your attorney understands the Florida statutes governing estate planning and can ensure the creation complies with all the necessary formalities.
6. Additional Considerations.
In addition to a Will, an elderly person should prepare a Declaration Naming Preneed Guardian so they can indicate a preference as to who will be their guardian in the event they become incapacitated. It is also a good idea to review your advance directives (Power of Attorney, Living Will, Designation of Health Care Surrogate) to ensure they are up-to-date.
Creating your will may take a little bit of time, but knowing your loved ones will be taken care of and demonstrating the planning aforethought is worth the effort. Start thinking about it today.