Planning You Estate & Your Will
Estate planning sounds like something for wealthy people, but everyone has an estate and the right to direct how it should be distributed upon their passing. If you have children or other family members, it’s your responsibility to make decisions about your assets to protect your heirs’ rights after you die.
An estate is not just a big fancy house. It’s a legal term for the sum of all your possessions. Your estate may include a vacation home or other real property, but it can also contain small personal possessions that have more sentimental than monetary value. Everything you own, no matter its worth or size, can be distributed according to your wishes after your death, if you specify your instructions in a legally binding will.
Beginning Your Estate Planning
Many people put off drafting a will because it seems like an overwhelming project. Others feel it’s bad luck to talk about your own death. Although we have a fear of discussing death in our society, it’s smart to think about and prepare for this inevitable event. Preparing your estate won’t hasten your death, but dying suddenly without a will in place could be tragic for your heirs. Here are a few tips to get you started.
1. List Your Assets
Start your planning by creating an assets inventory. Make a list of everything you own that has any value, either financial or sentimental. Here are some of the items you may have:
- Lawn mower
- Power tools
Remember to consider any items in which you have shared ownership, like that family vacation home. Add any non-physical assets to your list, as well. Think about any investments you have, retirement accounts or life insurance policies. Those will all have a monetary value at the time of your death.
2. Compile Your Debts
It is also important to make a list of all your debts. Remember to count credit cards, home equity line and loans such as mortgages or car loans. Be sure to include any personal loans or debts you owe.
3. Document Your Heirs
Your next of kin would stand to inherit all your assets if you died without a will. This list should begin with your spouse and children. If you aren’t married and don’t have children, your next of kin may be your parents or siblings. Your closest blood relations are considered your next of kin. How they are ranked for inheritance of your estate depends partly on jurisdiction. Since you’re preparing a will, you can determine who gets what, so be sure to include any special friends or relatives to whom you may wish to bequeath any assets.
Making these lists will help define your estate, making it easier to draft your will. You may choose to hire an attorney to complete the job, but wills are legally binding even if they are not drafted by an attorney. It is possible to get a kit of forms to use to draft your own will — the choice is yours.
Common Considerations When Drafting Your Will
A will is a legal instrument designed to settle your estate according to your wishes after your death. It may be used to protect your assets and any family assets you control. You may also use your will to provide for certain heirs or other people who are important to you. Estate planning is a good idea, even if you do not live on an estate. Making your wishes known in writing we help protect you in your final days and give you peace of mind about how your things will be distributed after you are gone.
Because most people are only familiar with estate planning from the movies or other fictional representations of the process, there are some basic common questions:
Should I Have a Joint Will With My Spouse Since We Own a House Together and Have Heirs in Common?
Best practice today, with the variety of family relationships, is to have a separate will for each individual. Chances are good that you and your spouse will not die at the same time. This will add complications to a joint will. You may also want to provide for children from previous marriages or distribute pre-marital assets.
Do I Need an Executor for My Will?
Even if your will is not complicated, an executor will ensure everything is done correctly. The most important role of an executor is to pay your bills and handle any debt collectors until your estate is settled. Depending on the circumstances of your death, this may affect your end of life care.
How Does My Will Get Executed?
Whether you use an attorney to prepare your will or not, it needs to be witnessed by someone who is not a beneficiary. The best way to accomplish this is to hire a notary. The notary can witness you signing your will and complete a self-proving affidavit to accompany the will. Upon your death, your executor will file the will and all accompanying affidavits with the probate court. If there are no objections at that time, your estate will be settled according to your instructions.
Preparing your estate is an essential step in ensuring that your wishes are carried out after your death. Everyone is going to die at some point, and most of us have no idea when that will be. It is better to be prepared in advance to protect the ones you love and leave behind.
Making Estate Planning a Little Easier
To ensure that your will is properly and fully executed, hire a mobile notary when you are ready to sign the papers. A licensed notary can come to your home or meet you at a convenient location to help sign and witness your will. A lot of effort goes into preparing your estate. You want to make sure it’s legally binding when you are finished with it. Superior Notary has mobile notaries in your area who are licensed, detail-oriented and fully insured to help you complete your will and give you peace of mind that it’s been done right. Contact Superior Notary today for convenient online scheduling.