Creating a will is an emotional task. Acknowledging our own mortality can be a struggle, and putting it down on paper may be even harder. This is perhaps why 51 percent of Americans between 55 and 64 are without a will. You’re not alone.
However, this part of end-of-life planning is an important step in making your loved ones’ lives easier when you pass, and we’re here to make it easier for you.
Whether you’re a new parent wanting to protect your child, you’re hoping to minimize your current estate taxes or you’re making sure your assets go to the right place, our guide below will help you get started.
We’ll offer tips on where to start, what to include in a simple will, which is the common choice for those with uncomplicated assets, how to make your will legally binding and where to store the document.
Where Do I Begin?
Planning your will can be more emotionally difficult that actually writing it out, but these considerations are also the most important part of the process. Below are resources we’ve compiled to help you get started.
- Decide what type of will is best for your situation. Start by researching different types of wills. While this post will explore a simple will, you should be aware of special considerations.
- To get a better idea of what a simple will should look like explore this free will template.
- If you’d like to complete a will online for free, you can use this tool from doyourownwill.com. This will cover typical situations.
- You can also find paid versions of online will creators, such as Nolo’s Online Will.
Continue reading for more basic information on how to create and legally bind a simple will.
What Should I Include In My Simple Will?
No matter your reason for creating a will, there is some basic information that should be included to protect your family from legal disputes.
- Your identity. This includes your name, where you reside and your date of birth.
- Your marriage status.
- If you are married, you need to include the name of your spouse and date of your marriage.
- If you are divorced, you will need to state the name of your ex-spouse, the year of marriage and where and when the marriage was ended.
- If you are not married, state this in the document.
- Your child/children’s information. Include full names and dates of birth, as well as an indication of a natural birth or adoption.
- Your child/children’s appointed guardian. This can also include an alternate guardian if you choose.
- The beneficiaries of your properties and assets. This should also state how you would like your properties and assets split between each beneficiary.
- Your appointed personal representative or will executor. This person will be trusted to handle your estates and maintain that your wishes are properly executed.
How Do I Make My Will Legally Binding?
Legally binding your will isn’t as complicated as you may expect. In fact, you can work through the entire process of creating and legally binding a simple will without a lawyer.
After you have prepared your will, you simply need two witnesses to sign it. However, there are a few considerations worth noting:
- Neither witness can also be a beneficiary.
- Your witnesses must be made aware that the document they are signing is intended as your will.
- Some states require that witnesses sign at the same time. Select your state and review its will requirements here.
- You and your witnesses should initial each page. This prevents anyone from slipping an extra page into your will.
- You and your witnesses should sign and date You should also have each name printed or typed out at the end of the document.
- Each witness should also provide his or her current address.
You now have a legally binding will and the last step is simply to store it properly.
How Should I Store My Will?
There are a few simple storage options for a will, but some may be better for your situation than others. However, in each case, you should be sure your beneficiaries and executor know where to locate it. Here are some suggestions:
- Safe Deposit Box. While considered a safe space for will storage, each state has different laws on when a safe deposit box can be opened and who has the authority to access the box. Check with your bank of choice for more details.
- Your county clerk. You may be able to store the original copy of your will with your local court. Just be sure you don’t plan to move out of the area, or this will make it harder to retrieve your will.
- Your attorney. Having your attorney keep a copy of your will can help ensure that your last wishes are safe.
- A safe. Ideally, this safe should be water and fire proof, and too heavy for anyone to carry off.
Other End-of-Life Considerations
Hopefully, our simple guide to creating your own will has put your mind at ease and simplified a difficult process. While creating a will can be emotionally strenuous, it’s an important step in protecting your loved ones when you pass.
Other common end-of-life considerations could include retirement and life insurance, but you should also consider preplanning your funeral.
- Preplanning your funeral is an act of love for your family. It’s your final gift to them and a way to prevent added stress during an already emotional time.
- Recording your final wishes prevents disagreements among family that could ultimately damage the healing process and relationships.
- It offers you and your loved ones peace of mind. You can be confident that your final wishes will be met, and your family won’t have to stress over making the right decisions.
Download our free Seniors Guide to Funeral Arrangements: How Preplanning Can Save Time, Money and Worry or arrange services with on of our preplanning advisors. An appointment is no-obligation to purchase.
Disclaimer: Busch does not serve as a lawyer and this blog post should not be viewed as legal advice.