Writing a New Will
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How to Write a Will
Having a will is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your family. Writing your own will can be fairly straightforward so long as your estate is small. Nowadays, there are will templates that make drafting your will easy. You can find the following templates online.
- Fill-in-the-blank forms: These templates allow the user to fill-in-the-blanks with information such as your name, your assets, what you wish to give away and to whom, etc. Because you are essentially writing your own will, they are not exactly easy to fill out and require attention to detail. They can also be a lot of work for someone who doesn’t have any legal expertise. There are few instructions, which can lead to devastating, unintended errors.
- Online Will Programs: You can also use an online program to help you draft a customized will. As they are online, they typically provide online practical support.
- Will Software: You can always download software onto your computer than can help you draft your will. You will need to answer some individualized questions to help customize your will. Good programs will also include technical support if you should run into any problems.
- Statutory Forms: For people who cannot afford an estate planning lawyer but who would nevertheless like to draft their own will, statutory forms may be the answer. These forms are free and easy to fill out. However, they don’t allow for much tailoring to your individual estate, so these forms are often used if a person has very straightforward assets.
What are the Steps to Writing a Will?
Whatever method you choose to draft your will, you need to gather some initial information that can make the drafting process easier.
- First, make a list of everything you own, including property (real and personal), stocks, bonds, bank accounts, credits cards, etc.
- Second, figure out who you want to give things to. These people are known as beneficiaries. Make a list.
- Third, name an executor. This person will settle your affairs, like pay your bills, file your tax return, and carry out your wishes. It should be someone you trust who is younger than you and likely to outlive you. Preferably, the executor should not be a beneficiary.
- Fourth, draft your will. You can use any of the methods stated above.
- Fifth, have two witnesses present that can sign the document. They should not be beneficiaries under the will.
I’ve Already Written a Will - When is Writing a New Will Necessary?
It’s important to have a valid will in place that covers how your property will be distributed upon death. The earlier you do this, the better, but sometimes a will needs to be replaced with a new one. There are many significant events in life that might make writing a new will necessary. Some of these changes include:
- Moving to a different state or jurisdiction (each state has different rules when it comes to written wills)
- Getting married or divorced
- A baby being born or a new addition to your family
- After acquiring or disposing of valuable properties
- After making or modifying a trust (trust laws and wills laws overlap to a great degree)
- If you have changed your mind regarding the inheritance of your property
A good rule of thumb is to review your existing will after any major events occur in your life. You’ll want to check and see if your will might be affected by the new changes. It’s also a good idea to periodically review your will every few years even if new events haven’t occurred.
What Happens To My Old Will if I Write a New One?
In most cases, writing a new will won’t cancel the old one unless you intend for the new will to replace the existing will. The easiest way to satisfy the intent requirement is to include language in the new will stating that you intend to cancel the prior will.
You should include a clause that states something like, “I am canceling my will dated ___ and enforcing this new will dated ___”. Without such language, it is possible that your old will might still be in effect and not the new one. To avoid confusion, it’s best to refer to each will by its date.
Which is Better - Writing a New Will or Modifying the Old One?
In some cases a person might only need to make a small change to their will rather than rewrite the whole document. Modifying a will can be done using a “codicil”, which is basically an amendment to the old will. The codicil needs to be executed using the same formalities for a valid will. Depending on your circumstances, a using a codicil may or may not be the best option.
For example, simply amending an existing will tends to create confusion, as the amendments can make the will difficult to read. Also, newer computer forms and technologies have made it much simpler to recreate an entire will based on an existing one.
Thus it is becoming standard practice to simply write a new will if changes need to be made to an old one. This is especially preferable in situations where many major changes need to be made and the will basically needs a complete overhaul.
Again, the choice of writing a new will versus a codicil will depend on your own individual needs. If you need guidance as to the proper form for writing a new will, it may be helpful to contact a wills attorney for advice.
How a Lawyer Can Help
A lawyer can help you ensure all your affairs are in order and your beneficiaries will not have a problem accessing your assets after you pass. If you have any questions about your will or want to pursue another option for leaving your property (such as a trust), a lawyer should be consulted. A lawyer can also help you if you have a large amount of assets or want to create a complex plan (such as leaving some property in a trust while placing the remaining assets in your will). If you fear that someone might contest your will for fraud or claim you were unduly influenced, consult an attorney right away.
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Last Modified: 06-06-2017 01:46 PM PDT
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