5 Simple Tips for Creating Your Own Last Will and Testament
As time continues, many of us quickly start realizing that life will not last forever. The day will eventually come when we take our last breath and say our final goodbye. And when we do, everything we have collected and worked for will be left in the hands of a single document: your Last Will and Testament.
But creating a Final Will can be a daunting and expensive task, especially for those who have no legal writing experience. That is why we have come up with this list of five simple tips to help you get started in creating your own Last Will and Testament.
TIP #1: Free templates are available to assist you
The internet is full of thousands of articles, templates, and links to various websites that offer assistance in creating your Last Will. We tested approximately five different websites and also solicited input from our members. Most everyone generally agreed that LegacyWriter.com was the easiest and best all-around source for creating your Last Will.
At Legacy Writer, they offer a free template that is easy to use and navigate. Their system takes you through an “on-line interview” wizard that asks specific questions about you and your possessions. Since it is likely something that may take some time to complete, you can create a free account and save a draft of your Will, allowing you to come back to it at a later date. When it is completed, you can have it mailed to you, or you can print it instantly. They even provide a set of instructions on what else you need to do to make your document ‘official’ so that it conforms to the laws of your state.
And if you decide you would also like to create a Living Will or Power of Attorney, they offer affordable templates for those as well.
TIP #2: Figure out who will become the Will’s Executor
An executor is the person who is entrusted with the responsibility of finalizing your affairs. They are the person you designate to distribute the property that passes under your Will. They also arrange for the payment of debts and expenses, and see that what’s left is transferred to the people who are entitled to it.
The law does not require an executor (also called a personal representative) to be a legal or financial expert, but it does require the highest degree of honesty, impartiality, and diligence. Many times, the executor is a spouse, parent, child, close family member, or good friend.
Being the executor of a Will can be demanding, and the person you choose might not feel up to the task, or simply might not have the time. So before you make their role official, we highly suggest asking them if they are okay taking on this position.
TIP #3: Be sure to mention your children
We know this may seem like something to automatically include in a Last Will to begin with. But the facts are simple: not everyone does.
Most often the one thing we think to include is who will be the child’s guardian (if they are a minor), and who will look after them if we were no longer around. But sometimes the relationship between you and your child(ren) is ‘tarnished’. And in these cases, most often that child is overlooked or not even mentioned in the Last Will and Testament.
Whether or not you plan to give everything to one of your children, or if you plan to disinherit your children, you should specifically address those wishes in your Will. The reason for doing this is to emphasize clearly to the court that you did not forget to include your children in the document. If you intentionally leave your children nothing and fail to mention them at all, they may contest your Will and claim that you forgot to leave them an inheritance (even if that was your intent).
TIP #4: Define your burial wishes
Often what ends up happening in a Final Will is that we focus too much on the materials and people we are leaving behind, without giving any thought to ourselves. With no clear instruction on what to do with your body, your executor and/or next of kin may be at odds, causing them additional stress, unrest, and potential legal fees if they decide to go to court.
Whether it’s a coffin, urn, or something else, be sure to indicate your specific wishes for a final resting place. If you have already selected a burial plot, pre-arranged or pre-paid for your funeral, or would like to be buried next to someone specific, don’t forget to mention those details as well.
TIP #5: Consider the help of an attorney
We understand that hiring a professional may not always be an option. But writing your own Will without any help from a lawyer may cause problems down the road that end up costing more money to sort out vs. the cost of retaining a lawyer from the start.
So at the very least, we suggest doing some research first.
Ask your family and friends if they have any recommendation on family lawyers who can offer advice or help in creating the Final Will. Look up “family lawyers” online to see if there is anyone local who can assist you. Visit their website and find out what specific experience they have in writing a Final Will. If you are considering a lawyer outside of your state, make sure they are familiar with the laws of your state and can create a Will that your courts will officially recognize.
Read their online reviews, and ask around to see if anyone you know has worked with them. Narrow down your list to maybe the top five candidates, and ask what their rates are. You may be pleasantly surprised to find that the costs needed to retain a lawyer are more affordable than you thought, especially with many firms offering partial retainers and payment plans.
In closing: With the help of these tips, we hope you’ll find that creating a Last Will and Testament may not be as difficult as you think. In its most basic form, this is simply a document that contains your final wishes. So be sure to give it some thought, mention anyone who is part of your life, and keep it updated as time goes on. Because the effort you put in today will help ensure the loved ones you leave behind spend more time memorializing your life vs. fighting over it.
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