Planning for the end of your life may seem preemptive, but it’s necessary if you want your assets distributed after death. Writing your own will and testament is an important step in passing along your property to the ones you hold dear but may present a few hurdles if you don’t properly plan for your special circumstances. Read on to learn more about:
Things You Should Include in Your Will;
Things You Shouldn’t Include in Your Will; and
How to Execute and Finalize Your Will with a Lawyer.
The Basics: Foundational Pieces of Your Will
You may already have an idea of what you should include in a will based on their prevalent use. Even so, it is important to know the ins-and-outs of each piece of your future will—you never know where you might face hurdles!
First, the obvious: a large part of your will may be assets and beneficiaries. There is not much you can not include that is yours in this section; you may fit any money, belongings, houses, boats, or cars into your will if you want them accounted for after your death.
When it comes to choosing who to give your assets to, you have a few options. Passing possession to family members is a popular option. If you choose someone that is older, you may want to assign a contingent beneficiary in the event of their passing. Whatever makes the most sense to you is the best way to go; however, if you are concerned about your assets having longevity, it may be best to consider where you place them carefully.
You may also set friends, a charity, organization, or trust as the beneficiary of a will.
A will’s contents does not just stop at where you want to direct your assets. You also need an executor who will carry out the requests of your will—we will talk more about this later. This can either be a family member or a lawyer.
Do you have kids? Still young yourself but want to ensure their safety if anything happens? No problem: you can build in a guardianship to your will. If you are a single parent, you may consider finding someone to agree to guardianship in this event. In most cases, your surviving spouse will become the guardian of your child.
Tying back to assets: you may choose to place assets or property in possession of your child, but if they are a minor, they cannot own the property. Instead, you will need to ensure your child also has a property guardian. This person can be the same as their personal guardian.
With these foundational elements of the will aside, it’s important to know there are elements you should not include in a will.
What You Should Leave Out of Your Will
To start, we mentioned there is not much you cannot include regarding your own assets and property. However, there are still a few limits to keep in mind when adding property to your will.
If you own property with your spouse (houses, cars, sums of money), this will not make it into the will. Deciding ownership is something that is easier for couples, for if one spouse dies, the other may inherit the property. This is known as the right of survivorship.
Likewise, there are insurance and company benefits that you need not include in your will. For example, you do not need to include life insurance beneficiaries in your will. Regardless of whether you even have a will, the beneficiaries of your life insurance policy will receive their proceeds in the event of your passing. The same may be said about pensions from your employer.
Finally, you may indicate how you wish to be buried once you’ve passed, but do not include this in your will. Your estate does not control your body, and your body is not property. It is best to communicate your wishes with your family ahead of time rather than in the form of a will.
If you are at all confused as to what you should and should not include in your will, it’s best to contact an estate planning attorney to ask as many questions as you can. Transferring your assets onwards is an important step when it comes to planning out you and your family’s future: best to do it well-informed.
Executing Your Will: How to Move Forward in the Past
A will accomplishes a few important goals in the unfortunate event of your passing: distribution of property, designation of guardianship, and carrying out of the will itself.
Anyone over the age of 18 may create a will as long as they are deemed competent by Maryland Estates and Trusts laws—in general, these are not restricting at all.
Once you have completed your will, added in all the above details and assets, you need to have it signed and witnessed. A will is not effective until you do either.
Your witnesses can be any trustworthy person in your life who you wish to have present at signing. The contents of your will, up until death, do not need to be known to anyone but you and your lawyer. Witnesses do not need to read or know its contents, but they will sign it to certify it as your last will and testament.
As the person signing the will, you are what’s known as the testator. Along with the two witness signatures, your signature is required to execute the will.
Of course, you can make your own will without a lawyer, but you may run into more hurdles if you have specific wishes. Have you gone through a divorce? Maybe you want to deal with issues relating to your spouse’s potential inheritance of guardianship. Any irregular asset situations? Get in touch with someone who knows what they are talking about.
If you are writing your will and need thorough answers to your pressing questions, contact our offices for a free initial consultation. Our lawyers are compassionate, adaptable, and will readily employ their knowledge of the legal code to make your will as polished and sound as possible.