Where to Begin: Your Last Will & Testament

Making a last will and testament to explain how your property should be distributed when you die is one of the most important things that you’ll ever do.  By making your will, you will give your surviving family members the gift of knowing that your wishes are fulfilled regarding your estate and reduce the stress that would come with lengthy probate and court proceedings.  Seem like a daunting task?  Imagine how difficult it would be for your family if you haven’t considered potential problems with your estate when you die and planned in advance to avoid those problems. Here are some of the general considerations when starting this process:

  1. Who will be your Executor? If you don’t appoint a representative, the court will appoint one.
    1. Responsible for paying your debts, managing your bank accounts, canceling your credit cards, and distributing your estate
    2. Must be someone you trust, family vs. friend
  2. Name your Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy.
  3. Itemize your assets, Property, bank accounts, stocks
    1. Name who will get certain items, and who gets what’s remaining
  4. Right of Survivorship- Intended beneficiary
    1. Jointly owned property including real estate & bank accounts
  5. Be sure to assign beneficiaries
    1. Name beneficiaries on all accounts, life insurance
    2. Who will be their backup beneficiaries?
  6. Consider a Trust
  7. Sign your Will in front of witnesses, to attest to mental competence & non-coercion
    1. Two adult witnesses who should also sign the Will-Consider Self-proving Affidavit
  8. Store in a safe place & let your executor know where it is
    1. Make copies
    2. Do not store it in a safe deposit box if you’re the only one that can access it.