It’s a topic not many like to think about, but it’s important and necessary to draft a will in order to ensure your loved ones aren’t left dealing with lengthy and often cumbersome Probate issues. When someone passes without a living, valid will, their estate enters Probate where the laws of their state will determine how – and to whom – their personal possessions and property are divided up.
In order to avoid complications for your loved ones after you pass, we’ve compiled a list of things to consider when preparing your will:
Create a Summary of Your Assets
While it’s not the only thing to consider when preparing your will, a summary of your assets is a large portion of what you’ll need to cover. This will also assist your family members in locating things like other bank accounts, security deposit boxes, and life insurance policies that they may not know about.
When creating your summary of assets, keep in mind these things:
- Life insurance policies (include policy number, company they were taken out with, and a contact number)
- Bank accounts (include account number, bank name, and location)
- Securities, annuities, 401K, Roth IRA or pension plans (include account numbers, company/institution name, and location or contact number)
- Safety deposit box (include deposit box number, institution, and location)
You’ll also need to take down important information for your personal property and belongings, including who they will go to upon your death. Make sure you include:
- Any personal property you own (include location and where the mortgage (if any) is located)
- Your belongings: household furnishings, cars, recreational vehicles, jewelry, etc. (list out all of your personal effects)
- Who is the beneficiary – this can be divided between multiple people, but you must state who gets what and how much
Determine Who Will Carry Out the Wishes of Your Will
When preparing your will, it’s important to know you’ll need two things: a witness and an executor. A witness is someone that will not be a beneficiary of your estate, and depending on which state you live in, you may be required to have more than one witness. They are there to sign stating your will is indeed your wishes and that you were of right mind when drafting the document. While not all states require a notarization, it’s always a good idea to get your will notarized.
An executor is the person that will ensure your wishes are carried out as written. This can be a spouse, child, or trusted relative or friend. However, if your estate is complicated, you may want to consider assigning an attorney as your executor.
It’s very important to include in your will that your executor has the power to pay your bills or handle any debts or related issues not outlined in your will.
Make Sure You Aren’t the Only One in Possession of Your Will
While most consider a safety deposit box a secure location to keep important documents, your will should not be one of them. In fact, upon your death, it may not be possible for your loved ones to retrieve your will without a court order.
If you’ve assigned an attorney as executor, they will have a signed copy on-hand. In addition, storing your signed and notarized will in a fireproof safe in your home is a good idea. You should also give a signed copy to a trusted friend or family member to hold on to in case your original is destroyed for any reason.
Check the Laws in Your State
While this list covers a large majority of what you should consider when preparing your will, each state has its own laws in regards to property disbursement upon death. Follow this link to find out how last wills work in your state.
For information on putting directives in place for loved ones in a long-term nursing facility, give Elmhurst Extended Care Center a call today.