Despite understanding the importance of a will, only 46% of Americans have one. Those over 65 are most likely to have a will, with 75% saying they’ve done one.
Not surprising is that as the age group goes down, so does the percentage who’ve prepared a will.
So, why do so few people have a will? Is it the maudlin feelings of considering your death, the worry over the cost of having one done, or how to write a will?
You might even be surprised to learn that you can write a will yourself. Read on to learn more about writing a simple will and the not-so-pleasant consequences of not having a will in place.
What Is a Will?
A last will and testament is a legal document. Even in its simplest form, this document spells out how you’d like your property and affairs handled after you die.
A will should name who is in charge of handling your affairs and property once you’re gone. This person is the executor of your will. It also defines how your property gets distributed and who should get your things.
Many who don’t have a will might have avoided it because they think they must have a lawyer do it for them. In fact, for many people writing their own will works just fine.
Legal Requirements Needed in a Will
While you can write a will yourself and have it be quite simple, some things must be included in the document. You want to include these things so that it will be considered a legal document and accepted by the courts.
First, it might sound obvious, but you need to state that this is your will and that the information reflects your final wishes. If you’ve started other versions of a will, it’s also important to include a statement voiding different versions of the will.
You want to name who you’d like to inherit property and assets that belong to you. You can be as general or specific as you like here. While some might say I want all of my assets to go to my spouse, others might name specific assets and who they should go to upon death.
You should name an executor of the will. This person will have the responsibility of carrying out your wishes.
If you have minor children or pets, you want to include your wishes for their care. Name a guardian, so the court doesn’t have to do it for you.
Finally, sign the will and have two witnesses sign the will.
Remember, no will is ever permanent. They can be changed over time as a change is warranted. You can even use a codicil to make some changes to the original document.
Options for Creating a Will
You might have wondered, do you need a lawyer to write a will? There are several options for writing a will without a lawyer.
Let’s take a closer look at options for writing a simple will.
Use an Online Source
One option for writing your own will is to enlist the services of an online source. Many online options are available, so you want to do your homework.
When you’re done, you don’t want to use an online source only to find it won’t be considered an acceptable legal document.
Read reviews and make sure you know what is being offered. For example, you might check to see that the service has a lawyer check over the will before you sign it.
Get a DIY Will Writing Kit
There are various DIY will writing kits available both online and from brick-and-mortar locations. They typically offer guidelines and templates for you to follow when creating the will.
These kits will typically provide examples to guide you through creating a simple will. If your estate is more complex, this might not be the best option.
Write Your Own
You can also opt for writing your own will. You can do some simple searching to ensure you have the correct legal language in the will.
If you want to choose this option, research your state and local requirements for a will. For example, it’s not recommended to handwrite your will. This is referred to as a holographic will, and many states won’t accept this as valid.
Hire a Professional
There are some times when it makes sense to bring in a professional. If you know you have a more complex estate, which might include multiple children, a business, or many investments.
Then you might want and need to consider more in-depth estate planning to protect your heirs from paying more in taxes and having a complex probate situation.
Consequences to Consider if You Have No Will
Many people feel like they don’t have enough assets to bother with a will. But not having a will can impact more than just your assets. Let’s take a closer look at some consequences of not having a legitimate will in place.
1. Naming an Executor
Without a will, you lose the right to name an executor to handle your estate when you’re gone. If a probate court names the executor, there’s no guarantee it will be who you prefer and that they will act as you might wish them to.
An important part of your will is to spell out how you want your minor children cared for and by whom, should you not be alive, to do it. If you have a complex family situation or don’t want your children to end up with a certain person, then you need to make your wishes clear in your will.
3. Children and Assets
If you don’t spell out how you want your children to receive assets, and they are your heirs, it’s possible they could receive all the assets at once.
Some people with more sizable estates don’t want a child to have the responsibility or access to large amounts of money before they’re mature enough to handle it.
4. Burial Preferences
Most people will include in their will their funeral preferences. Even if you have shared them verbally, there’s no guarantee they will be followed.
If, however, they are spelled out in your will, then legally, your wishes must be followed.
5. Missing Power of Attorney and Living Will
Many people who prepare their will also will draw up important power of attorney paperwork at the same time. You need both financial and medical power of attorney.
This person then has the authority to make decisions on your behalf. Be sure you also consider doing a living will when you do your regular will. A living will spells out your wishes for medical care if you’re not able to make the decisions.
Learn How to Write a Will Yourself With These Simple Steps
Knowing how to write a will, even a simple one, can save your loved ones many hassles and ensure your estate gets handled following your wishes.
If you need help in McClean, VA, and Greater Houston, TX, with estate planning, we can help. Contact us at Bogart Wealth so we can have one of our experts help you make these important decisions.