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Jul-08-2019 22:26printcomments

5 Steps for Making a Legally Valid Will

Writing your own will is not a difficult task, just begin.

write a will
Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom from Pexels

(SALEM, Ore.) - There are more misconceptions about wills than just about any other personal finance topic. The good news is that it's pretty easy to write your own will with a few downloaded forms and a short guidebook.

Of course, some wills are more complicated, in which case you might get advice from the experts. When a terminally ill person, for example, decides to sell a life insurance policy to a third party for below-maturity value, they typically turn to professional insurance agents or consult a viatical settlement guide.

In the case of a standard will, however, the process is much simpler. No matter how old you are, what your employment status is, whether you're married or single, or what your net worth is, you can create a binding, legally valid will in under an hour.

There's no need for legal help, but many people who write their own wills hire an attorney to look it over and make sure everything is in order. This route is significantly less costly than having the attorney write the will from scratch.

Here are the steps for making your own will:

  • Make a List of Property That Will Go into the Will

    Keep this list simple but be sure to only list the property that you are not transferring by some other means. And don't forget that most states will only allow you to pass along your half of "community property" items if you are married. In most cases, husbands and wives should have separate wills. Check your state laws to confirm.
  • Name Beneficiaries

    With every asset listed, be sure to name a primary beneficiary as well as a secondary one, in case the first person listed is deceased when your will goes into effect. In most states, any asset that does not have a designated beneficiary goes to the spouse or next of kin.
  • Designate an Executor

    A will must have someone to administer it and that person is called the "executor." It's wise to choose a backup in case the first person is unable to do the job. And be certain to inform the person you choose so they will know that upon your death, they have a duty to fulfill.
  • Name Guardians

    In case both you and your spouse die before your minor children have reached the age of maturity, you'll need to name a guardian in your will. That person will become legally able to make decisions about the well-being of your children until they reach the age of 18.

    It's also important to name a "property guardian" in case you're leaving property to young children. The property guardian will have the legal power to control the designated assets until the children are 18.

  • Create the Formal Document of the Will

    You can download standard will documents from online sources. After you've made decisions about the above steps, simply "fill in the blanks" on the standard document.

    Be sure to sign the document in front of at least two witnesses and have it notarized. There's no law that you have it notarized, but it helps in case there's ever a question about the document's authenticity.

Don’t forget to store the original will in a safe deposit box or a similarly safe location. Also, inform your executor where the document is located and leave detailed instructions about how to get access to it in the event of your death. This simple preparation will make a significant difference to those left behind.

Source: Salem-News.com Special Features Dept.

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.