No one likes to talk about his or her own death. However, unless you hire an estate lawyer or write your will yourself, you could end up leaving your family and other loved ones with a massive legal bill and other problems that could prove to be a difficult burden.
Wills are not just for those with an extensive amount of assets; wills can cover everything from how you’d like certain heirlooms and trinkets distributed to loved ones, who you want to look after your children should you die before them and what assets you’d like liquidated in order to pay for any debts that you might leave behind. In short, a will is absolutely essential for both your family’s peace of mind, and that of your own.
Yet if you’re not sure of where to begin, writing a will can seem like a daunting if not downright impossible task. This is why many individuals choose to hire a lawyer for assistance, as a good lawyer can answer any difficult questions about legal processes that happen to your estate upon your death. Before you choose a lawyer, however, make sure you arrange a time to meet where you can ask certain questions that will help clarify if they have your best interests at heart:
How Long Have You Been In Estate Planning? The longer a potential lawyer has spent doing will and estate planning, the more likely it is that he or she will be able to answer any questions or assist with complications after your passing. A good lawyer will also have a spotless reputation, so do some online research on the firm before hiring.
What Do You Specialize In? While an estate lawyer should be able to address any legal issues that may arise after your death, many specialize in certain areas of estate planning over others. If a potential lawyer can’t assist you with planning all of your will, find one who can.
How Much Are Your Fees? Protecting your family’s future is priceless; however, you want to make sure that you don’t leave them with a massive legal bill should they encounter any difficulties. If a potential lawyer is out of your price range, find one who fits more comfortably in the budget.
Above all things, be sure that you pick a lawyer who makes you feel comfortable. If you feel as though you can’t trust a certain estate lawyer, find one who makes you feel more at ease. After all, your family will be dealing with your lawyer after your death, and you want to make sure that he or she will carry out your wishes exactly as planned.
Of course, for many individuals, hiring an estate lawyer is an expensive practice; therefore, the practice of writing one’s own will has become increasingly popular over the last decade. If you’re interested in a DIY will, follow these tips to ensure an error-free document:
Choose An Executor That You Trust. An executor is responsible for your estate after your death. Choose a close family member who has your best interests at heart, as this person will ensure that your estate is distributed according to your wishes. If you appoint your spouse as an executor, pick a substitute should the two of you die in an accident.
Appoint Guardians. If you die and leave behind children under the age of 18, you’re going to have to appoint a guardian to look after them. If you’re unmarried but have a partner, make sure you specifically point out that your partner will become guardian, as many courts don’t always award guardianship to the deceased’s partner.
Make Specific Requests. Unless you leave behind your assets to family members and loved ones, your estate will be liquidated in order to pay off any debts that you may leave behind. Be sure to leave assets that are meant solely for this purpose in order to preserve your family’s peace of mind. Additionally, if you have any heirlooms that you want to see passed down, make specific requests to ensure that your wishes are carried out.
Have Witnesses. If you don’t sign your will in front of two witnesses, then your will won’t be considered legally valid. An appropriate witness is a person who is not mentioned in the will, nor is it anyone who is married to a constituent in the will. Once you’ve signed the will, have it stored in a safe place that your executors will have access to upon your death.