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Making a will is both a profoundly personal and legally consequential undertaking. On the one hand, it's a way to reflect on your legacy, your wishes and priorities. On the other hand, it is essential protection for your loved ones against the bureaucratic hassles of intestacy.
Essentially, a personal will dictates your wishes for when you pass away. To whom would you like to leave your assets, money and real estate? If you have dependents, who would you like to see as their guardian? Would you like to donate a portion of your money to a cause or charity?
These are essential questions to ask while you are still alive. Yet, an estimated 55% of adults do not have a will. Without a will, you cannot decide how your estate is distributed after your passing. Instead, your estate's disposition follows standard government rules that may not reflect your wishes.
Too often, adults put off making a will because they assume the process is lengthy, complicated and costly. As you'll see below, that's not the case. Here are a few key steps to take when putting together your personal will.
Reflection and Preparation
To start, create an itemized list of both your assets (money, real estate and possessions) as well as your debts. Then, think about the people in your life who would benefit from the receipt of your assets.
A helpful guiding question throughout this process is: 'who depends on you most financially?" In other words, who would be impacted most by your passing? In all likelihood, that will be your spouse or children. But it may also include a relative whose tuition you pay or a charity to which you've routinely donated.
Consulting with a Lawyer
A will is not something you want to 'DIY.' It needs to meet strict legal criteria. It's best to work with a will lawyer throughout the process who can offer advice and draft an ironclad personal will. Thankfully, hiring a lawyer for your personal will doesn't need to be expensive, nor does it require you to leave the house. Nowadays, you can book an appointment with an online lawyer specializing in wills and have the process done remotely for a fixed price.
In your will, you will need to appoint various people to various roles - these are called your appointments.
One key appointment is the executor (or personal representative or estate trustee). Their job is to carry out the terms of your will and administer your assets. They need to be someone responsible, in whose abilities you trust, since they will be required to do everything from burial arrangement to tracking down beneficiaries and settling your debts. Another key appointment is a guardian, though this is mainly applicable to parents of minors.
Dying intestate - without a will - may have serious consequences for your loved ones. To maintain control over who your beneficiaries, guardians, and executors are, create a will. With some self-reflection, preparation and the help of a great online lawyer, the process is straightforward and affordable.