Researching how to write a last will and testament isn't a topic that most people want to think about, but drafting a will is a necessary part of responsible adulthood. If you've got a family to provide for or children to care for, it's especially vital that you draft a will in the event of an untimely death.
Who will be your child's guardian?
One of the most important questions for parents when drafting legal wills is the question of who will be the child's guardian. Think carefully about who you would like to raise your child in the eventuality of your death. Make sure you discuss guardianship with the party in question before you draft the will, to make sure the proposed guardian is willing and you discuss any important considerations. Don't wait too long for writing a will if you have a child, as establishing guardianship of your child is one of the most important things a parent can do in the event of an untimely death.
What property is included in your will?
When you draft a will, you must think about what property is included in your will. You can be as specific or as general as you'd like when you're naming property in your will. You can simply refer to your property as a body by referencing your estate, or you can break down specific or individual pieces of property that have special value, like jewelry or antiques. In the event that property isn't designated in the will or a general term that encompasses the entire estate, it reverts to the state's probate laws for distribution.
Who will get the property in your will?
You can handle disbursement of property in your will a few different ways. One way to disburse property is to list specific items, and designate individuals to receive that property. Another way to disburse property is to simply designate who gets what portion of your estate, and let the named parties decide how to divide the property based on the portions you've allocated.
Who will be executor of your estate?
After guardianship of your child, naming an executor of your will is one of the most important decisions you can make. The executor is responsible for settling your estate after your death, and ensuring that your will is honored. An executor has to handle all the paperwork, liquidate assets, pay any taxes and distribute the proceeds according to the instructions in your will. Make sure you choose a trustworthy executor, and, if you don't want to leave this burden on your family, choose a professional executor or lawyer to handle this process.
Do you need a lawyer to draft legal wills?
It's possible to use legal forms to draft a do-it-yourself will. However, drafting a will yourself can expose you to all kinds of potential problems. Legal forms may not be up-to-date or incorporate state-specific probate law, and your will may not address important issues. In some cases, if the will isn't formulated properly, witnessed and properly recorded, a do-it-yourself will may not be valid at all. Lawyers typically don't charge a lot of money for standard legal wills, and, if you use a lawyer for writing a will, you'll have the peace of mind of knowing that it's done properly.
In the event of someone dying without a will, that person is said to have died "intestate," or without legal direction on what should happen to their property. In that case, the courts take over.
The purpose of a living will and its importance should not be underestimated. Learn how to write a living will and choose someone as a health care proxy.
Under gift tax law, you're entitled to present a gift valued at up to $12,000 to any number of individuals per calendar year without paying gift taxes. Both you and your spouse are eligible for the exclusion, so using both exclusions, you and your spouse can give up to $24,000 to an individual per calendar year without incurring any additional gift taxes.