Although it may be one of the most important legal documents a person can prepare, less than half of all American adults have a Last Will and Testament (will) according to the American Association of Retired Persons. Wills are critical legal documents that determine who will manage someone’s estate after their passing, providing clarity and easing stress for loved ones. For many adults, writing a will may seem overwhelming – they may not be sure what things to consider when writing a will. The San Francisco, California experienced estate planning attorneys at Von Rock Law can help guide you through the estate planning process. Consider contacting us for a complimentary consultation at (866) 720-0195.
What Are the 7 Steps of Preparing a Will?
The 7 steps of preparing a will include the following:
- Listing your assets including savings and retirement accounts, investments, real estate, life insurance policies, and other properties.
- Deciding who receives your money and belongings after you pass. Without a will, these assets will be distributed through state laws, so it is important to articulate your wishes through a will.
- Choosing guardians for any minor children.
- Writing the will. It is often important to consider working with an experienced California estate planning attorney who can help navigate legal processes.
- Naming an executor for the will. This will be the person who carries out the terms of the will. It is important to ask the person ahead of time if they are willing to be the executor of your will.
- Making the will legal under the law. In California, a will must be signed by two witnesses who are over 18 years of age and who are not beneficiaries of the will. Notarization is not required in the state of California.
- Keeping the will updated. Events might require you to change your will periodically such as marriages, divorces, changes to incomes, and other events, so make plans to revisit your will annually.
What Should I Avoid in a Will?
When discussing things to consider when writing a will, it is also helpful to explore what to avoid or exclude. This includes business interests, personal wishes, coverage for any beneficiaries with special needs, and certain types of property. Most wills in California must go through a probate process which takes time. If you do not want certain assets to go through the probate process, you can consider including them in a trust instead.
The website of The Judicial Branch of California explains probate as a court case dealing with:
- Determining whether a will exists and is valid.
- Determining who the decedent’s heirs or beneficiaries are.
- Determining the value of the decedent’s property.
- Taking care of the financial responsibilities of the decedent.
- Transferring the decedent’s property to their heirs or beneficiaries.
Business interests and personal wishes such as funeral arrangements or coverages for beneficiaries with special needs require quick and smooth transitions and may end up tied up in probate. If you have questions about what should or should not be included in a will it can be helpful to learn how to protect your legal and financial rights. Consider contacting the experienced California estate planning attorneys at Von Rock Law to discuss your estate planning options.
What Questions Should I Ask When Writing a Will?
What questions should you ask when writing your will? Some helpful questions include:
- How should I express my intentions?
- Who will carry out my intentions?
- What is a trust? Should I use one instead?
- What if I want to leave money to charity?
How Should I Express My Intentions?
It is helpful to think about who is important in your life, what you have in your life, and what you would like to distribute to whom. It may be helpful to draw up some lists and to write down the people close to you – your spouse, parents, siblings, children, grandchildren, or other family members. Taking the time to think through these difficult choices is important to ensure your wishes are carried out.
Who Will Carry Out My Intentions?
There are different roles within wills. An executor administers the settlement of the estate while a trustee manages assets, and a guardian raises minor children. It is advised to include an alternate executor and guardian in the event they are unable or unwilling to act when necessary.
What is a Trust?
In some cases, you may want to set up a trust, an agreement in which money or another asset is held and managed by one person for the benefit of another. Trusts referred to as testamentary trusts are part of a will and upon the death of the person transfer wealth and help avoid taxes. There are many different types of trusts, and visiting with a dedicated California estate planning attorney can help you determine if these are right for your circumstances.
What If I Want to Leave Money to Charity?
It is very common to will money to charity upon death. In some cases, these contributions may be tax-deductible. You can see which charities qualify by checking on the IRS website.
What Are the Most Important Factors of a Will?
Some of the most important things to consider when writing a will are:
- Listing all assets – ranging from property to investments to personal items. Never forget smaller items that hold sentimental value like artwork or jewelry. Additionally, digital assets, such as websites, passwords, and social media accounts should be addressed within your will
- Guardianship of minor children
- Determination of beneficiaries
- Determination of those who will carry out your wishes
How Can an Estate Planning Attorney Help Me with Writing A Will?
Knowing what things to consider when writing a will may seem daunting which is why it is helpful to speak with an experienced attorney. At Von Rock Law, we have been providing California legal services for over 75 years, helping families to plan for their future. Consider reaching out to us today for a free consultation at (866) 720-0195.