Creating and Maintaining Your Last Will & Testament

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Writing up your Will is a big part of estate planning. Don’t keep putting off writing your Will just because you don’t want to spend the money on legal fees. Sit down with your attorney and draw one up now, even if it's only a simplified version. The cost to write a simple Will for someone who is single with an uncomplicated estate can be as little as a couple hundred dollars. Those with more complex assets who are married with children may naturally have to  pay more, but will get plenty of value from letting a qualified attorney oversee the process.

When writing a Will, you’ll need to appoint someone to be legally responsible for making sure that the will is executed according to your wishes, and that Executor or Executrix should be someone you trust. They should also be capable of handling that kind of legal responsibility. You can designate your attorney, if you want, or set aside some funds from your estate to help the named executor pay for legal help and guidance. Make sure that the person you name is aware that you’ve appointed them, too, and obtain their consent before finalizing your Will.

You can always revisit your Will in the future to amend it as you see fit, but getting some form of Last Will & Testament created right away, regardless of your age, is critical to responsible estate planning. Making adjustments to your Will is necessary for marital status changes, if you have a child, or if your legal residence changes. Someone named within your will may also change their legal name because of marriage or some other reason, and you need to update your Will to reflect that change.

Storing your Last Will & Testament

Now you have to figure out where you are going to put that all-important document for safekeeping. Unfortunately, after making so much good progress with their planning efforts, many people botch this part, despite the fact that it should be really easy.

People used to register their Last Will at the courthouse, which made it easy to find. That’s why the official title of the court officer who registers documents such as property deeds and marriage licenses is often called the Register of Wills. The practice of recording Wills before you die is now pretty much obsolete, however, and there are better ways to safeguard your Will. You can have your attorney, for example, hold on to the original document. Just be sure to move it if you switch lawyers and make sure that your next of kin knows how to contact your attorney.

Another good place to stash your Will is in your bank safe deposit box. In fact, most people keep a copy there. The problem with that is, while they take that important step, they don’t provide legal access to the box. Only persons who are authorized to sign are allowed inside, so if you are gone and nobody else has permission, the Will is going to remain out of reach. A court order will likely be required in order for someone to open the box and examine its contents. That can become a huge hassle for your survivors, only aggravating the grieving process. By the time they get to your Will it may also too late to comply with some of your wishes for such things as funeral arrangements. Add a trusted person as a second signer on the lockbox in order to circumvent this kind of obstacle.

Other Considerations

Inform your loved ones of the whereabouts of your Will and be sure that your Executor or Executrix knows where it is.

One mistake that is easy for couples to make is that they assume that their spouse will serve as legal guardian for their children, so they don’t bother to list anyone else as a backup. Sometimes both parents die at the same time, though, so be sure to cover all possible contingencies. Consider setting aside some liquid cash in your Will that is earmarked to pay off any outstanding taxes, legal bills, and your funeral expenses. If you have incidental expenses such as utility bills you may also want to factor those into the equation.

You should also consider all your digital account information and cloud-based assets. Most people have PayPal accounts, online banking accounts, and some have stock and bond portfolios held by Internet brokerage firms. Is your retirement savings plan completely managed by on online financial institution? Do you own a lucrative online business that accepts customer payments electronically? Every single scenario needs to be considered when writing your Will.

Procrastination is the Biggest Blunder of All

Writing a Last Will & Testament is an essential, basic component of the estate planning process. Unfortunately, too many people postpone the task. Many procrastinate indefinitely, until it is too late and they inadvertently leave their survivors with unnecessary legal hassles, a lack of financial security, and limited closure at a very difficult time. Don’t contribute to those sad statistics. Go ahead and create your Will now so you can stop worrying about it and relieve your loved ones of that potential headache. You’ll be glad you finally completed the process and you’ll sleep better at night knowing that the hugely important step is behind you.

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