What You Need to Know About Making A Will
When Michael Jackson died unexpectedly, it showed, once again, how life is often unpredictable. It also made me think that I need to have a will. Most of us don’t and while we like to think we are immortal, the death of a super rock star at age 50, reminds us we’re not.
Nearly everyone needs a will. While succession laws vary from state to state and circumstance, if you do not have a will, the state will decide for you how your property is to be distributed and it may not turn out the way you had planned.
USA Today advises that if you are younger than 50, in good health and don’t expect to owe estate tax that a no frills will is probably appropriate. However a lawyer should be consulted if:
- You expect to pay estate tax when you die.
- You want to control your property.
- You have a child with a disability or special needs.
- You have children from a prior marriage and you fear conflict between them and your current spouse.
- You think someone might contest your will.
Some of the things to consider when you visit a lawyer are:
- What property do you want included
- Who do you want to inherit your property
- Choose an executor
- Choose a guardian for your children
- Choose someone to manage children’s property
- Sign your will in front of witnesses
- Keep your will in a safe place where people know where to find it
Author, Christine Dugas, advises some of the common mistakes to avoid:
- Lack of signatures. A will must be properly signed and witnessed with witnesses present in the same room. If not, the will can be contested.
- The will can’t be found. A will needs to be stored in an accessible place, where the executor is able to obtain it. Some people keep it in a safety deposit box at the bank, but the executor might not be able to get to it after your death. One suggestion is to keep it in a fireproof box with other valuable papers.
- If you change your will, make sure any copies are destroyed and that the executor has the will.
- Be specific and list the names, so it is clear if adopted or step-children are included, rather than just stating you want to leave the estate to your children.
- Make sure you choose the right executor. Relatives or friends are not necessarily the best. It should be someone who is intelligent and trustworthy and will ask for help if needed.
And if you do consult a lawyer, be sure you have done your homework ahead of time. Have your questions ready before going in.
There is peace of mind to be had by knowing you have a will. None of us likes to deal with this unpleasant matter but the consequences to our survivors can be catastrophic and are avoidable.
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