How to Create a Will

In fiction, we often see an antagonist granted a final request after being slain by the hero, especially if he died honorably. It makes for a great storytelling technique, but a dying declaration doesn’t have much legal standing in real life. In order to ensure your final wishes are carried out upon your passing, you’ll need a legal document like a will or trust. Trusts can be complex, but creating a will is a relatively simple and painless process that can be done in a single Saturday afternoon. Here’s what you need to know about how to create a will.

Our knowledgeable financial advisors at Good Life Financial Advisors of Mt. Pleasant can provide the tools and guidance to help you support the ones you love even after you’re gone. Contact us today for assistance.

Who Needs a Will?

The legal name for a will is a ‘Last Will and Testament’. Think of it as an instruction manual for your heirs to turn to if you die or become incapacitated. With a will, you can direct the distribution of assets, manage debt repayments, select guardians for minor children, and even lay out your own funeral arrangements.

Who needs to draw up a will? Marriage is a good starting point for most people since you’re now sharing a life with someone else. If something unfortunate happens to you, you’ll want to be sure your significant other is taken care of. And once you have children, a will is a must so that a guardian can be assigned and assets fairly distributed. Wills can always be changed and amended too, so don’t feel like you need to set your final wishes in stone decades before they need to be put in motion.

A will is a matter of public record, which means your assets will be on the books for anyone to see. Additionally, if your assets have accrued past a certain amount, probate court will be required to complete the distribution process.

Steps to Creating a Will

Drawing up a will is simple and straightforward. You don’t even need to have a lawyer present to devise a will, you just need a word processor and an idea of what’s important to you (and your potential heirs). Here’s a step-by-step process on how to create a will:

  1. Consider Your Assets – One of the most crucial functions of a will is a roadmap for the distribution of assets. If you have stock holdings, real estate, or other types of property like jewelry or art, you need to decide who receives what after your passing. Be sure to include all your retirement vehicles, brokerage accounts, and other capital assets—if you don’t name it in the will, you run the risk of the courts making the decision.
  • Name Beneficiaries – Once you’ve assembled your assets, you’ll need to decide who gets what. Money, securities, and property can be passed down to heirs via a will, so you’ll be able to list a recipient for each asset you’d like to bequeath.
  • Name Guardians for Children (if applicable) – If you have minor children, you’ll need to name a guardian for them to live with should something happen to you and your spouse. This is another one you don’t want left to the courts.
  • Name an Executor – The executor is in charge of carrying out the requests in the will once its author has passed on. You can choose anyone you’d like to execute your will on your behalf, so choose a trustworthy person with knowledge of financial assets. If you don’t name an executor, the courts will select one for you.
  • Sign in Front of Witnesses – Most states require the will to be signed in front of two witnesses in order to be valid. You’ll need to sign and date the will in front of these witnesses, who must be different people from any beneficiaries you’ve listed elsewhere in the will. Eventually, you’ll want a lawyer or financial advisor to review your will.

Wills vs Trusts

A will is the most popular choice for estate planning because it’s affordable and easy to set up, but there are plenty of drawbacks as well. An airtight will doesn’t mean you’ll avoid going through court. If you have considerable assets, the courts will likely get involved. Also, a will can be challenged in court by heirs who don’t feel they’ve been given a fair shake. If you have bickering children or unhappy ex-spouses, a will won’t prevent them from making claims that you weren’t in the right state of mind when dividing assets.

A trust is more expensive and complicated to set up, but it does remove your estate from the public record and prevent courts from getting involved. A trust is its own entity, and assets must be transferred into it. But once inside a trust, assets are shielded from challenges and your final wishes must be adhered to (even if some folks are unhappy about it). If you have questions about wills and estate planning, be sure to consult with your advisor. It’s an uncomfortable but necessary conversation.

Speak with an Advisor

Legacy planning is about supporting your loved ones. Our knowledgeable financial advisors at Good Life Financial Advisors of Mt. Pleasant can provide the tools and guidance to help you support the ones you love even after you’re gone. Contact us today for assistance.

Disclosures

This information is not intended to be a substitute for individualized legal advice. Please consult your legal advisor regarding your specific situation.

Good Life Financial Advisors and LPL Financial do not provide legal advice or services.