Gregory L. Williams
Essential Estate Planning: Last Will and Testament
Sixty percent of Americans don't have a will, including a whopping 78 percent of Millennials (born between 1980–1995) and 64 percent of Generation Xers (born between 1965–1980)! When it comes to estate planning, you can never be too young or too old—but you can be too late. While it's not fun to think about your own mortality, writing your will is a wise and relatively easy thing to do. So easy, in fact, that you can do it yourself.
There are only a few requirements your Last Will and Testament must meet before it's considered a valid legal document:
- Begin by stating your name, indicating that you're at least eighteen years old, and affirming that you're mentally sound and aware of what you're doing (namely, making a will).
- After this initial statement, you'll name a person to manage your estate; this person is called an "Executor."
- One of the primary responsibilities of your Executor—and (for most) the primary purpose of the will—is to distribute what's left of your money, property, and belongings after funeral costs and debts are settled. As far as how you do this, you're generally free to decide how and to whom you give away your assets. Some prefer to give their belongings and money to various family members, while others donate their money and belongings to organizations and charities. For example, thousands of libraries and museums have benefited from belongings given to them through the wills of deceased individuals.
- Finally, after you've written your will, you must have it signed by two witnesses that generally aren't also mentioned in the will (e.g., a neighbor, coworker, or friend).
You may notice that having an attorney draft your will isn't listed as a requirement. That's because it isn't; there's no legal prohibition against you writing your own. If you do decide to go it alone, however, it's still a good idea to have a lawyer review it. This review will help enormously to ensure that the will actually says what you mean to say. You don't want to accidentally say the wrong thing in an otherwise legally binding document; you may inadvertently codify your mistake and make your family and friends pay for it!
A last will and testament is a foundational document that everyone should have. Along with giving you some measure of peace, it will also save your friends and family significant heartache as well.
If you have any questions or concerns, don't hesitate to contact us or schedule a consultation. We're here to help.