Your Guide to Drafting a Will

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A pen and legal documents to use when drafting a will
22 Apr

Your Guide to Drafting a Will

A will is a foundational component of estate planning. Discover key elements to include and how to designate an executor.

Key takeaways:

Take these five steps to draft your will effectively:
Determine what to include in your will
Choose an executor
Follow legal requirements
Update and review regularly
Seek professional guidance

When you’re starting the estate planning process, one of the first and most important steps you’ll take is creating a will. Many of us put off will creation because it sounds daunting, and we don’t want to consider the unpleasant thought of what will happen when we’re gone.

But, drafting a will is important for many reasons, primarily to help your family and secure your estate. This step-by-step guide helps simplify wills and provides practical advice to ensure your wishes are honored.

1. Determine what to include in your will 

Every will looks different. What to include depends on the size of your estate, how many beneficiaries you have, and the extent of your distribution instructions. However, these key elements are a must:

  • Assets and property: This will include all of your bank accounts, real estate property, investments, other types of property (boats, vehicles), and businesses.
  • Beneficiaries: Your beneficiaries are the people who will inherit your property and assets. They will be listed in the will alongside the assets they’ll receive.
  • Executor: The executor is the person who will manage your estate and ensure all will provisions are followed. You will name the executor in your will document.
  • Minor guardians: If you have minor children, you will name guardians for them in your will.

You don’t need to put details about your wishes and certain business interests in your will. These are covered in other types of documents. But be as clear as you can about asset distribution and beneficiary information. Working with a legal expert will help you draft your will effectively.

2. Choose an executor

Let’s talk about what an executor does and why it’s important to choose the right person. An executor is someone who will handle estate management after your death. They are responsible for following all provisions of your will. They will locate beneficiaries, keep heirs informed, pay estate taxes owed, file legal documents and notices, and oversee asset distribution. 

Choosing the right person takes careful consideration. You want to designate someone who is capable of handling this kind of task and who is financially responsible. They’ll have to manage many moving parts of the estate, like making payments, initiating communication with agencies, and instructing financial institutions. 

Select an executor you trust to always be honest and forthright. Also, consider someone who other family members will support being the executor, too. Your goal is to create a situation that isn’t going to cause a lot of challenges. 

3. Follow legal requirements for wills

There are certain legal terms and formalities you must include in your will. Otherwise, it may not be valid and won’t hold up in court. 

Requirements vary by jurisdiction, so carefully research what your state and locality require for wills. In general, you will need these requirements in a valid will:

  • Proof of your mental capacity: When you create your will, you must be over 18 and conscious and aware of your choices. 
  • Notary: It’s a good idea to get your will notarized to strengthen the will in the probate process.
  • Signatures: In addition to signing the will yourself, you usually must have two witnesses sign the will as well. Witnesses typically aren’t the executors or beneficiaries since they have an interest in your will.
  • Written document: Your will needs to be in writing to be valid.

Doing your due diligence will ensure your will is valid and will be held up in court. You want the probate process to go smoothly for your beneficiaries, and the stronger and more detailed your will, the better.

4. Update and review your will regularly

Creating your will is an important first step. Beyond this first draft, you may need to update it again in the future – maybe even several times. Put a process in place for regular review to ensure everything is in order. 

In addition, certain life events may prompt a review or update. For example, marriage or divorce, children, grandchildren, asset acquisition, job or income changes, or death of a loved one all may be times to update your will.

5. Seek professional guidance

Creating a will doesn’t have to be a complicated process but you still should consider working with a legal or financial professional. They will understand all the terms you need to include in your jurisdiction as well as best practices for strengthening the validity of your will.

An expert can help you navigate complex beneficiary situations or give you clarity on probate laws and legal processes. 

Get help from an Avior advisor for will creation

Creating a will is one of the foundational components of effective estate planning. A will helps you take stock of your assets and decide who will inherit them after your death. It also helps you simplify the probate process with detailed guidance so your loved ones can honor your wishes without a lot of extra stress.

Take proactive steps now in creating your will. Work with the team at Avior for all of your estate planning and wealth management needs. Our advisors provide tailored solutions to help you secure your and your family’s financial future. 

Contact Avior to get started.

Disclaimer: Nothing contained herein should be construed as legal or tax advice. Avior and our Advisors will work with your attorney and/or tax professional to assist with your legal and tax strategies. Please consult your attorney or tax professional with specific legal and/or tax questions. Investment Management and Financial Planner are offered through Avior Wealth Management, LLC, an SEC-registered investment advisor. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.  Investments are subject to loss, including the loss of principal.

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