How to Write a Will: A Guide from an Estate Planning Lawyer

Laguna Niguel estate planning attorney

Writing a will allows you to make decisions about what will happen to your possessions after you pass away.  A well-written will finalized by a Laguna Niguel estate planning attorney can divide your assets among loved ones, provide instructions for your funeral, and much more. 

Your will is a document that can express all your final wishes, especially related to your belongings and finances, which means it can get complicated. Getting services from a reliable Laguna Niguel estate planning attorney can guide you through the process of writing your own will. 

Getting Started

Your will is a document that expresses your final wishes. It’s often used to divide your assets among family and friends, but you can include other information in it as well.

In your will, you can name an executor who will be responsible for ensuring that your wishes are carried out. Most people choose a close friend or trustworthy family member. 

An often-overlooked potential function of your will is to name a guardian for your children in case both parents become incapacitated. Putting this information in your will can prevent the court from assigning a guardian according to their criteria. 

You can leave specific items to specific people in your will. It’s also a place for you to write out instructions on how to pay off any of your debts, taxes, and other unfinished business.

Using a Template

If you have never written a will before, it can be tough to get started. Fortunately, there are plenty of templates you can use as a guideline.

You can find will templates in books or websites specifically dedicated to the subject. These resources are generally carefully researched and include a wealth of information.

There’s also available software that can make it easy to generate a will that covers all your main concerns. You’ll need to pay a fee, but you can use the same software to create wills for everyone in your household.

In addition to software, you can find will templates online. However, it’s easy to stumble across inaccurate information online. 

When using will templates, consider having a lawyer go over your will to make sure it communicates what you want it to.

What to Include In Your Will?

Your will should include basic information about you—so that it’s clear who the will belongs to. You’ll also need to state that it is your will and contains your final wishes. 

Your will can also include your final wishes in regards to your burial and funeral service. You can also provide practical information about a burial plot and headstone, or how to pay for them if you don’t already have them.

You can also list your beneficiaries, such as family, friends, and even charities. 

If you want to leave something to a non-spouse partner or a friend that you aren’t related to, it’s especially important to list that person in your will. State laws prioritize family members when dividing up inheritances unless you make other plans in your will. 

What Not to Mention In Your Will?

There are limits to what you should include in your will, for privacy reasons. It’s important to remember that your will is going to be available as part of the public record after the court processes it. That means you should avoid including personal or sensitive information in your will.

Instead of putting sensitive information in your will, you can put it in a memorandum. To make the memo legally binding, you can refer to it in your will. 

If you’re concerned about some of your assets being lost or overlooked, you may want to provide an itemized list of assets. You can also list the people you want to inherit specific items if you feel so inclined. This is the kind of information that can go in a memo if you are concerned about privacy. 

Some assets can’t be transferred via a will. Bank accounts, insurance policies, and other assets will often require you to specify a beneficiary with their institution instead.

When you have highly specific instructions for your assets, or if you own real estate, it may be a good idea to look into a trust instead. 

It’s hard to put stipulations on inheritances through a will, but you can go into more detail in a trust. Trusts also have unique tax advantages, depending on the type. A trust attorney Orange County can help you create one that meets your unique needs.

Putting Your Will Into Legal Effect

Since a will is a legal document, you’ll need to do a few things to make sure your will is considered legally valid. 

The first step is easy.  You will need to sign your own will to show that you approve of everything outlined within. 

After that, you’ll also need to have two witnesses sign your will. It’s not necessary to share the details of your will with the witnesses, but you do need to tell them that they are signing your will. 

Getting your will notarized is another step that is technically optional, but legal experts highly encourage it. A notary can provide a self-proving affidavit, which proves that the will is genuine and makes it easier to carry out.

Check Your Will With a Professional

Once you’ve created your will, it’s a good idea to meet with a legal professional with experience in estate planning and probate law. Even if you have already drafted a complete will, a lawyer can provide valuable input. 

If you have a complex financial situation, there may be laws or concerns that a will template can’t account for. The only way to get personalized advice concerning your finances is to work with a lawyer with experience in creating wills and estate planning. 

Additionally, laws change quickly. Your book or software may not be up to date, but a good lawyer can inform you of the latest updates to local laws. 

Parker Law Offices can help you create an estate plan that provides for your loved ones and covers all your bases. We understand how important it is to know that you are prepared for the worst. 

To schedule a consultation for creating a will and other estate planning documents, contact us at Parker Law Offices today at (949) 385-3130.

Maria Parker assists her clients plan for their end of life health care wishes and the ultimate distribution of their wealth after death. She personally experienced the importance of planning at the time her father passed away.

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