Primary Goal of this Step
A will is a legal document that specifies what should be done with your property after you die, who will become the legal guardian for your children or dependents, and who will be the person who carries out your wishes detailed in your will (your executor). Having a will in place can help minimize family disagreements and stress, especially if there are young children involved or substantial assets and property.
Important Tasks: Write a Will
Get prepared to make tough decisions
For some, determining beneficiaries, guardians, and an executor may be simple; for others, these choices can be fraught. If you are married, you should discuss your decisions with your spouse. You may also want to talk to family members, friends, or your attorney.
Decide who will inherit your property
You can name any person or people to be the beneficiaries to your estate, including family members, friends, organizations, or institutions. The only people you cannot name as beneficiaries are the people who serves as witnesses to the signing of the will.
Decide who will carry out the wishes in your will
This person is known as your executor, and is responsible for paying any debts or taxes on behalf of your estate and making sure that the people who are supposed to inherit your assets actually receive your assets.
Decide who will become the legal guardian for your children or dependents
If you have children under the age of 18 or if you are the legar guardian of a dependent adult, you will need to name someone who will care for and raise your children or dependents if you should die. If you are married you will typically name your spouse as the guardian.
Decide if you’re going to create the will yourself (online) or with the help of an attorney
There are many online legal services that can help you create a basic will that names beneficiaries, guardians, and an executor. However, if you have complex financial arrangements, such as real estate, assets overseas, or elaborate investments, or if you would like your will to do more, such as establish testamentary trusts, you should work with an attorney or an online service that lets you get advice from real lawyers.
If you’re going to create a will online, find the right forms to do it yourself.
Factors to take into consideration when choosing an online legal service include cost, completion and delivery time, and the services offered by the site. For example, some online legal services will submit your documents to review by a paralegal after completion, while others will not. Some online companies also offer the ability to get legal advice from real lawyers.
If you’re going to hire an attorney, find the right person.
The right trust and estate attorney will be someone with significant experience in handling the issues you’re dealing with. Talk to friends, family members, and other attorneys to get recommendations. Meet with the attorney you’re considering before hiring him or her. Make sure you are comfortable with an attorney’s personality, working style and skill set.