Updated: Jun 20
Writing a will is probably not at the top of your to-do list. But it is never too early to start thinking about one. Drawing up a will may sound difficult when you don’t know where to begin. So, I have put together a list of five steps you can start working on today to leave behind a record of how you want your assets and personal belongings to be distributed after you are gone.
1. Decide who your Beneficiaries will be.
When you pass away leaving behind a Will, only those people designated in your Last Will and Testament as Beneficiaries will get a portion of your estate. Your estate includes all your assets such as your house, money, cars, any other real estate, and all other personal belongings including digital assets (like your social media accounts, pictures on cloud storage and all other electronic information stored in your computers and mobile devices).
Your Beneficiaries can be your close relatives, friends, or even entities like your alma matter. Think carefully about who you want your Beneficiaries to be and what you would like them to get. Once you feel comfortable with your decision, then you can move on to the next step.
However, there are assets that will not be added to your estate when working with your Will. Those assets include your retirement accounts (401K, IRA), life insurance policy, annuities, payable on death bank accounts, and transfer on death investment accounts, provided you have designated your Beneficiaries properly, and property that is in joint tenancy.
2. How would you like your estate to be distributed?
In other words, who should get what? As you think about who your Beneficiaries you’ll also start thinking about what you want to leave them. Your estate can go to one person, be divided equally among all Beneficiaries, or even be distributed in specific amounts to each Beneficiary. Estate planners often highlight the difference between an equal distribution of one’s estate and equitable estate distribution. In the former, each Beneficiary would get an equal share of your estate. Period. In the latter, each Beneficiary would get a different share of your estate or what’s fair given their individual circumstances.
A good way to divide some assets, especially certain personal belongings, is by contacting your Beneficiaries and asking what they would like to receive when you die. A family heirloom may not equally divisible between your friends or siblings, but you can make sure each Beneficiary gets something that is meaningful to them. So, make a list of all your Beneficiaries, then contact them and add what items they should receive next to their names.
In addition, using your Will to specify who should inherit what will avoid issues or disputes among your loved ones who will still be mourning your death. Keep in mind that you ultimately want your estate to be distributed fairly among those you love.
3. Who will you choose to be the Executor?
The Executor of your Will is the person who is in charge of making sure your wishes are carried out. Choose a person you trust and who you know is responsible. They can be a family member, a friend, or your attorney, to name a few options. Keep in mind that the Executor of your Will should be fairly compensated for their work, even if he or she is a friend or family member. Closing an estate may involve many tasks and hours even if your Will is carefully drafted and thought out.
4. If you have minor children, who would you choose as their guardian?
It may be quite unpleasant to think about who will take care of your minor children if you die. And that’s why it is so important to think about who you would like to be in charge of them if the worst happens.
Their guardian should be someone who love and take very good care of them, who will raise them in a manner you trust, and who have the financial means to do so, especially if they have children of their own. Although getting their permission first is not required by law, you should ask the person or people you would like to serve as your minor children’s guardian(s) if they would be Willing to do so. If you would rather not talk to them beforehand, make sure to choose an alternate guardian in case your first option decides not to take on such a role. After all, it’s their choice too.
5. Who should be in charge of your will?
Entrusting the right person with your Will is very important because, under current Utah law, your Will must be probated within three years of your death. After that, the presumption of intestacy (or that there is no Will) is final, meaning your final assets will be distributed to your closest relatives, not in accordance with your Will. So, be sure to choose someone you can count on to probate your Will in a timely fashion.
Be sure to tell whomever you have chosen to take care of your physical Will where you store. Further, keep a copy of your Will with copies of your other important papers, passwords (with security questions and answers) to bank accounts and cryptocurrency wallets, social media sites, and cloud data services. Finally, store the original document in a secure spot like a fireproof safe.
Once drafted, your Will can be changed or updated as many times as you wish until your death. After a few years, it is actually a good idea that you review your Last Will and Testament to make sure you are not leaving any assets or loved ones out or unaccounted for.
Hire an Experienced Probate Attorney
Do-it-yourself software programs and websites may cut the cost of preparing a will in half when compared to the costs associated with hiring an attorney. However, an experienced estate attorney can help you and your loved ones save thousands of dollars down the line by crafting a will that addresses your final wishes and fits your needs in an affordable way. At SKV, we offer a free first consultation in which one of our experienced attorneys will go over your goals and needs. Our consultations can be virtual or in person. If you are interested in getting started on preparing your will, give me, Randa, a call at (801) 608-4706 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and schedule your free first consultation today.