A will is a legally binding document that specifies who will inherit a person’s assets when they die. For parents, making a will is arguably the single most important thing they can do to make sure their children are cared for by the people they trust should anything happen to them while the children are under age. A will has little to do with the person who actually writes it, it’s more for the ones that they are leaving behind. Without a will in place, there is no guarantee that when a person dies, their money or assets will go to the people they want or that their children will be cared for by the person they believe will do the best job.

The State May Step In

Something that many people may not know is that if a person dies without a valid will, most state laws require that their property be divided according to a fairly inflexible formula. In most states, the spouse would receive only about one-third to one-half of the estate. The rest would be earmarked for their children.

While that may seem logical and fair, in some states however, a state-appointed administrator (who also charges a fee for the service) would ultimately control the children’s money until each child turned the age of 18. What that means is that the spouse would not be able to access the money to help raise the children without going through a very complicated legal procedure. Even if the courts decided that the spouse could hold the funds earmarked for the children in a trust, proper documentation of how much money is used each calendar year is often required. It is a very lengthy and involved process that adds much more undue pressure and grief to an already somber situation.

Even People Who Aren’t Wealthy Need A Will

If both parents died without having a will in place, the state courts and social services department would appoint someone to raise their children, essentially a complete stranger. Even if a person thinks that they have almost no property to leave to the children, it’s worth making a will to ensure that they at least get to choose their guardian and who raises their children.
Many people don’t have a will in place, simply because they don’t think about that kind of thing until it’s too late, and lawyers’ fees can be pretty expensive. A person can start drafting a will themselves to avoid having to pay some of the legal fees by using some of the ideas below, however, it makes sense to finalize thing using an attorney who will definitely be able to help you with issues that aren’t obvious to the ordinary person.

* Make a list of all your assets which should include bank accounts, investments, real estate, life insurance, and personal property.

*Decide exactly whom you want to inherit what and also when. For example, a person may want their daughter to inherit their grandmother’s wedding ring upon their 18th birthday.

*Choose a guardian to raise your children. It’s also recommended that an alternate guardian be chosen as well in case the first choice is unwilling or unable to do the job.

* Decide whether someone else will handle the assets you leave your children. If so, choose that person. This could because of their age, or because you want to put someone responsible in charge.

*Choose an executor to carry out your wishes and handle the necessary paperwork after you die.

*Decide whether to include a letter stating how your children are to be raised and educated, how your funeral is to be arranged and so on. These are your last wishes and they should be followed.

After You’ve Made A Rough Draft

If a person has taken it upon themselves to draft a rough copy of a will and are ready to take the next step, there are several guidelines for making a will a legal document, which are outlined below.

*The will should typically be typed or printed from a computer. While, handwritten wills are legal in some states, handwriting can often times be misinterpreted. Preferably the document should be typed so it is completely legible and nothing can be misconstrued.

*A person must state somewhere in the document and clearly define that it is their will.

*A person must sign and date the will and it must be signed in the presence of at least two witnesses. The witnesses must also sign.

A legal will doesn’t have to be notarized nor does it have to be recorded or registered with any government agency. After the will has been signed, it is recommended that it be put in a safe and fairly obvious place to be found. A locked metal filing cabinet or safe are popular places most people store their wills. It is also recommended that a person tell their spouse and executor (if appointed) where it can be found.

Having a will in place is something that no person should neglect if they want to ensure their family is protected after they are gone.