Drafting a Will

Wills are a commonly-used estate planning tool to arrange a person's affairs after they die. The requirements for creating a will change from state to state, so it is helpful to speak with an estate planning lawyer regarding the correct way to draft a will.

Anyone over the age of eighteen is able to write their own will. The only two requirements to make it legal are a signature and date of the writer as well as the signature of two witnesses. To make the will legal, an attorney's presence is not required. In order to avoid future confusion and conflict; however, it is advisable to meet with an attorney to make sure it is safe from loopholes and potential errors.

If you die without making a will, state law or the court will decide how to divide your property. Your community property will be transferred to your spouse, or in some states, your domestic partner. Any separate property will be distributed to your immediate family. Your spouse will receive half the property if you have one child, who will receive the other half. Your spouse will receive one-third of the property, however, if you have two or more children. The rest of the children will divide the other two-thirds.

If you do not have immediate family, then your property might be distributed to parents, siblings, grandparents, or next of kin. The courts will also decide who will care for your children and their inheritance if you died without specifying a guardian. If your spouse is still living, then custody will most likely go to him or her.

How to Make a Will

Depending on the estate owned by the individual, wills can vary from simple statements to complicated documents. To begin drafting your will, follow the steps below:

  1. Specify property: list out all the assets or property that you would like to transfer to your heirs. This can include household items, family heirlooms, real estate, or assets in a bank account. Note that community property cannot be put in a will, because it will be directly transferred to the co-owner after your death.
  2. Designate beneficiaries: decide the individuals who you want to inherit your property. You may also want to include alternate beneficiaries, in case something happens to your first choices. If you desire, you may also leave money to charities or other institutions.
  3. Choose a guardian for your minor children: if you have children that are under 18 years of age, then you may want to name a person to raise them and manage their property. You do have the ability to choose different people to care for them and manage their property.
  4. Appoint an executor: designate a trusted individual that should manage the transfer of all of your assets. Make sure that you discuss his or her potential responsibilities before you name the individual in your will. Your executor should be willing to take on the job! You may also want to appoint an alternate successor, in case the first executor is unable to perform the responsibilities.
  5. Sign the will. In the presence of two witnesses, sign the will. You may also consider getting the will notarized to further prove its validity.

Once the will is complete, store it in a safe place and notify your executor and beneficiary of its whereabouts. When the time comes, they will be able to access it and use it accordingly. If you have any special needs, such as you want to disinherit an immediate family member or you want to control your property even after your death, thentalk to an estate planning attorney near you. They can help draft an estate plan that meets all of your wishes and desires.