How To Write a Will
A last will & testament is the foundational document of any Michigan estate plan. In this article, we will define what a will is, what it can and cannot accomplish, and the differences in drafting a will with an attorney or without an attorney.
What is a Will?
A will is a legal document that sets forth your wishes regarding the distribution of your assets and appoints guardians for any minor children. If you die without a will, you die intestate, meaning you have no estate plan to determine the distribution of your estate. In this situation, the court will determine who inherits your estate and your wishes will most likely not be carried out. Further, without any estate plan your heirs will end up spending additional time and money to settle your affairs.
A will is a great tool for simple estate plans. They allow you to be clear about who gets your assets as well as in what amounts. They also allow you to keep your assets out of the hands of people you do not want to have them, such as an estranged relative. Further, your beneficiaries will have a faster and easier time getting access to the assets with a will than without one. Most importantly, you can identify who should care for minor children. Without a will, the court will make the determination.
How to Prepare a Will
In preparing a will there are two key aspects to consider. The first and more obvious being who do you want to inherit your estate and in what proportions? Do you want it to go to your children equally, or more to one child than another? Or is there a charity or organization you would like your estate to go to?
The next and less obvious aspect to be considered is who you choose to have serve as your personal representative. A personal representative’s role is to administer the estate. Often these duties consist of arranging funeral services, notifying beneficiaries, determining the value of the estate, as well as distributing the estate. When deciding who to have serve as your personal representative it is best to choose someone who is organized and financially savvy.
Should You Write a Will Without an Attorney?
Oftentimes people believe they can draft their own wills with the help of a will template or some online software. This is a poor idea for many reasons.
Often this is done to save money. The risk of this undertaking is incredible and not worth saving a few dollars. Each state has its own laws for how wills must be signed in order to validate and whether it is self-proving or not. When drafting a will on your own, many people do not follow their state’s laws regarding witnesses to the will’s signing or do not make the will self-proving.
Another common problem with self-drafted wills is they are ambiguous, and often vague to important aspects of the will such as who the beneficiaries are. The will says “children.” But do you mean step-children as well? What about adopted children? What about a child that was born after the will was drafted? With the help of an experienced estate planning attorney all the potential pitfalls can be avoided.
You wouldn’t go to trial without a lawyer, and you shouldn’t prepare a will without one either. Contact The Mitten Law Firm today for a free consultation.
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