A document that will stand up in court, if necessary, and be tailor-made to meet the needs of your family, must first be thought out carefully by you, and then skillfully prepared by a lawyer who specializes in will drafting and estate planning. He can guide you to the best decisions — but only after obtaining all the facts that you alone can give. Thus, you can be sure that your will is properly phrased, witnessed, and has all the technicalities observed. It is penny-wise and pounds- foolish not to pay a lawyer’s fee for this service. The charge will depend on the size and character of the estate and the work involved.
Here are some points to know when making a will:
- You don’t need to make an itemized statement of your assets, nor do you need to state the disposition of your property item by item.
- You can change it at any time you wish, as your assets, beneficiaries or desires change.
- Your will is not recorded before death; no one need know of it if that is your wish.
- The existence of the will does not affect your ability to sell or dispose of property. You may continue as though you had not written the document.
- While the law permits a beneficiary to witness a will, it is recommended that a beneficiary witness is used only when a disinterested party is not available, in order to avoid future challenges as to conflict.
Start by making a list of everything you own and all you owe — a statement that will show exactly where you stand financially. Decide to whom you will lave your real and personal property. Do it systematically. Be certain you have stated just what your wishes are by making a list of the persons involved, their relationship to you, your objectives, when their request is to be given, and how it is to be provided — through a trust fund, life insurance trust, etc., and the source of the funds, whether from the general estate or proceeds of insurance policies. Take this list to the lawyer who is counseling with you.
Select an executor, executrix or personal representative to administer the will. This may be the beneficiary who will inherit the bulk of your estate, a member of the family, your legal or financial advisor, a trusted friend or business associate. You should name a contingent executor or personal representative to act in case your first selection dies before you, or is unable to serve.
A bank can act as executor, personal representative, trustee under a trust, or guardian of either a minor or an incompetent person. A bank is experienced and familiar with accounting and management details. It is financially responsible and a continuing institution — an individual may die, but a bank has continued life.
In selecting your executor or personal representative and trustee, the choice should be made with great care. The decision should be businesslike, not sentimental. While sentiment and friendship cause some people to name members of the family or close friends, remember that your executor or personal representative has the important responsibility of settling your estate and seeing that the wishes expressed are faithfully carried out.
Here are a few of things an executor or personal representative must do, in addition to seeing that the will is offered for probate:
- Qualify as executor, (also known as Personal Representative), obtain a certificate of authority, and if necessary, execute a bond.
- Locate and take possession of all property, discover and assert all rights and line up claims owned by the estate.
- Prepare and file an inventory of all property and interest of any kind belonging to the estate, listing the appraised value.
- Review all assets, liquidating those of doubtful character.
- Advertise for claims and pay them in the order cited by law.
- Collect monies due to the estate.
- Figure and pay taxes.
- Pay legacies under the will.
- Distribute the estate.
- Make final accounting to the court.
It is important that you name a guardian if you have minor children. When you consult the attorney, ask for a rough draft of your will and study it carefully before signing the final copy.