Estate planning and crafting a will can be a daunting task. Creating a list of considerations and consulting with experienced estate planning lawyers can help to make a difficult time easier and ensure that your will accurately reflects your wishes.
Your executor or personal representative will help to carry out your final wishes according to your will. Consider whether or not your executor will carry out your wishes the way you would want them to. Many people choose an adult child, spouse, attorney or close friend as executor. You may choose more than one person to be executor of your will, but it is important to make sure they work well together.
Write down everything you own, including:
- real estate
- bank accounts
- stocks and other investments
- personal belongings
Jointly owned property, items placed in trusts, and benefits and payments from insurance policies and retirement accounts that pass directly to your designated beneficiaries do not have to be specifically mentioned in your will.
Although much of your property has monetary value, some items such as photographs, jewelry and family heirlooms may hold sentimental value to you and others. If there are specific items you would like to pass on to certain people, make sure to mention them in your will. Think about whether there are any charities or institutions you would like to support.
If you are excluding a close family member such as a child from your will, write a short statement that includes the reason so your executor and the probate court understand that you did not overlook that person in error.
Think about who you would want to care for your children or any adults who rely on you for support, and how willing or interested they would be in fulfilling their responsibilities as guardians. It is also essential to reflect on whether they will respect your wishes regarding the methods you choose for raising your children. You may also want to provide specific provisions for pets that will need care after your death.
If you have trouble estimating how much to set aside to provide for your dependents, skilled wills and trusts lawyers can help you determine what is appropriate and outline the provisions in your will for paying expenses that come with guardianship responsibilities. If you have a dependent with special needs, your attorney can help you set up a special needs trust for that person. There are also different types of trusts that can help your beneficiaries avoid probate and inheritance taxes.
List the amount and type of your debts, which can include credit cards, mortgages, loans, personal debts, and outstanding bills. If you do not have enough cash to pay these debts, determine which assets would you like your executor to sell first to cover them.
It is also a good idea to write down debts owed to you by others. Decide if you want these debts to be forgiven after your death, or if you would like your executor to collect them and add them to your estate. If you own a business, both assets and debts can get sticky. Having a business succession plan in place can help business partners and family to avoid conflict after your passing.
Once you have created a list of considerations, our experienced lawyers in Chester County and Delaware County can help you craft a will that fits your needs and ensures that your legacy lives on.