Preparing a will to protect your assets and your heirs is always an excellent idea, but many people try to do this themselves and end up leaving out critical information. If the document doesn't have all of the elements required by law, it could be declared invalid after your death, putting your estate at risk and causing unpleasant strife between your potential beneficiaries. To minimize that risk, be sure that all of the features outlined below are included.
A Clearly Designated Executor -- Consider A Will Attorney
You should appoint someone you know and trust as the executor. Although many people choose a family member, you could also appoint a will attorney, as he or she would be completely impartial. Be sure that whomever you appoint is willing and able to take on the responsibility. Taking things through probate and distribution can be a lengthy, complex process. If you don't choose someone, the courts can appoint an executor for you, and it may not be the person you would have chosen.
Clear Division Of Assets
It's easy to write a will that says you want each of your children to select a few items that have sentimental value from your home, but this often leads to family feuds over valuable assets. Clearly outline who gets what to avoid this kind of trouble. If you want to divide your assets equally between several people, talk to a will attorney about getting your real estate and personal property appraised before writing estate plan. This makes it easier to divide your assets equitably.
Many people assume that their descendants can choose the funeral arrangements, but this is a burden that your children would probably rather avoid. It's difficult for surviving family members to cope after a loved one passes away, and adding to that burden can cause a great deal of pain. Outlining where and how you want your funeral to be handled, including how much it should cost, means one less worry for your loved ones.
Guardianship Of Minors
Regardless of whether your child is six or sixteen, a will attorney can advise you on how to appoint a guardian for your child or children. This is the person making day-to-day decisions for the child and ensuring that he or she is properly cared for. You should choose a guardian who can raise your child in a manner similar to how you are raising your child to minimize confusion.
Instructions About Pets
Pets aren't recognized as people by the courts, so you cannot leave money directly to your dog or cat, although many people have tried. Pets are considered personal property, and as such must be left to a specific person. Choose someone who can love and cherish your pet as much as you do. If you want to leave that person some funds to help with your dog or cat's expenses, consult with a will attorney who can advise you on setting up a specific fund for that purpose.
Discharging Debts And Obligations
When someone passes away, it's inevitable that there are some outstanding debts and obligations that have to be paid by the estate. If you include clear instructions and account for these duties in your will, that's one less burden for your children.
If all of this leaves you confused, you aren't alone. Most people who try to prepare their own wills quickly realize that consulting with an attorney is the best way to ensure that their heirs are protected and that their wishes are carried out properly. If you have any questions about how to structure your estate, contacting a will attorney should be your first step.