A will is basically a legal document that allows a dead person to tell living people what to do and they have to do it. This is an awesome power if you think about it. Not only does this allow a person to speak from beyond the grave, a will also achieves a level of obedience that is seldom seen during life.
The most common function of a will is to transfer the ownership of a deceased’s assets to a designated beneficiary. Any assets that don’t transfer automatically upon a person’s death end up as part of the estate. A will, then, acts as a back-up plan for how these assets get distributed once they are stuck in the estate. Others would argue on the lines that they do not have anything worthwhile materially to necessitate them write a will. But the children that one has will have to have a responsible guardian. And even your remains’ final resting place can be a bone of contention sometimes if not put in the will. So a will is important with or without having any substantial material possessions.
How does one go about writing a will then? You may be asking. Firstly, as testator (person writing the will) you have to decide on what will go into the will and who will inherit. Decide on how you will distribute assets to a specific person(s) or to a favourite charity. You can also use the will to leave a gift of a cherished item or monetary amount to somebody special left behind (e.g., your church pastor or family friend).
Secondly, you have to find an executor who is somebody who will handle your estate when you are dead. Along with this is the need to name the guardian to your children or wards. If you have minor children, it is highly recommended that you make a will if for no other reason than to name a guardian for them. If you die intestate (without leaving a will), a court will probably award the custody and care of your children to the nearest available relative (which may include that aunt you have always loathed – somebody very undesirable to you that would make even a stranger seem more appealing).
The flip side to this issue is that you actually have somebody you can name as guardian. Like parenting itself, this is an awesome responsibility that should not be entered into lightly. You should carefully select your guardian and do have their consent beforehand. Remember, a chosen guardian does not have to accept this responsibility and has right to refuse to take on responsibility of looking after your children when you die. A good source of potential guardians is close friends or family members with kids of their own. Since they are in the same position as you, you can agree to make reciprocal provisions in your wills to take each other’s children if needed.
Thirdly, you have to find an attorney to draft the Will for you. It is possible to have a home-made will drafted (and it can legally be accepted if two witnesses duly sign to it and is authentic). Much as the main benefit to making a will on your own is saving money (a lot of money if you are considering having an attorney do it for you), the main drawback is the potential for something to go wrong with the omissions or additions in the will. So much as putting together your own will is certainly an achievable and inexpensive goal, the question is whether you are willing to risk the consequences of poorly drafting this very important document. The price of failure when making a will is having a part of (or worse the entire) will invalidated when it gets to the courts for execution.
Lastly, remember that if a person dies without a will or a will turns out to be invalid, two things can happen. The first and more preferable scenario is that all of a deceased’s assets are split up in an orderly fashion by those closest to the deceased. The second is according to the default rules of the state. Deciding not to have a will is effectively the same as letting the state decide who gets your assets after your death. The state rules are generically referred to as intestate succession laws, and they can really stink sometimes for those caught unawares.
A blessed weekend to you. n