written by: Regina Thomas
Even though it’s common to put off writing a will, you really should get one drafted as soon as possible. There’s no telling when an accident or illness could claim your life, so you’ll want to be sure your family will be protected. Before you contact someone to help you create a will, this overview will help you learn more about this type of estate planning document.
What Happens if There Isn’t a Will?
The first thing you should know is what happens when you die intestate, or without a will. In that case, a hearing will be arranged that allows your loved ones to make claims against your estate. This can lead to disputes among your loved ones in addition to a judge determining the distribution of your assets according to state laws.
This process can be even more unsettling when it comes to the care of your minor children. If you haven’t named guardians in your will, a judge will make this choice for you, and that may mean your children will be in the care of someone you don’t trust.
Do You and Your Spouse Need Two Wills?
Getting a joint will with your spouse isn’t advised and, in some states, it may not even be legal. The reason for this is that there are several estate planning issues that arise in determining how assets will be distributed.
If you have children or property from a previous marriage, guardianship and the distribution of assets may need to be distinguished from the assets automatically passed to your surviving spouse. You and your spouse should each have your own wills to ensure there isn’t any confusion after one of you passes.
How is an Executor Chosen?
The executor is responsible for working with you to settle your estate. Depending on where you live, for example, if you live in Houston, you will want to find a Houston probate lawyer to start. This involves taking an inventory of your assets, liquidating enough assets to pay off your taxes and debts, and distributing the remaining assets in accordance with your will.
This is a significant responsibility, so you will want to choose someone you trust to take these obligations seriously. You should choose someone you have been able to rely upon in the past and someone who has exhibited financial awareness.
What is a Letter of Instruction?
There may be some assets that you want to be left to a specific loved one. While you can make this distinction in your will, a letter of instruction can accompany your will to provide more details. You may have more to say about why this asset was left to your specified loved one, or you may need to provide information that’s necessary for the use of the asset.
This is more common in our current digital age in cases where it’s necessary to provide passwords, PIN numbers, and account numbers. A letter of instruction provides an opportunity to pass on the information that wouldn’t be included in the will.
Does a Will Need to be Updated?
Another common mistake people tend to make is to forget about their will once it has been drafted. On the contrary, you should review your will together with your attorney once every year to ensure it remains up to date. Things change, relationships end, and new assets are acquired years by year, so it’s important to look over your will and make relevant changes.
In addition to determining the distribution of new assets, you may want to choose a new executor, or the passing of a loved one may require naming new heirs.
Can Your Will Really be Contested?
Contesting a will means to challenge whether or not it’s legally valid. Only specific people, such as a spouse, child, or ex-spouse, are permitted to challenge the will’s validity. In order to do so, the person contesting the will must show that you were in a compromised mental state, or that you signed the will under duress, or force. Your will may also be contested if it can be proven that your signature was forged, or was not properly witnessed.
Your lawyer can help you draft a will that will ensure your assets and your loved ones are protected. You can also add other documents to your estate plan to help you prepare for your future medical and financial care. While this planning may not be very exciting, it is necessary to ensure your future is planned and nothing will be left to chance.