Making Your Last Will and Testament
Here are some of the things you ought to keep in mind before you launch into the task make your last will and testament.
First, you must make sure that your name, date of birth, social security number and current address are correct. Remember that other people might share your identical name, so take great care to get these details right: your personal identifiers are critical in terms of a search of a will and the correct data will allow the proper authorities to be able to backtrack to verify your identity.
You will need to revoke all other existing wills and codicils and make this explicit.
Appoint an Executor
You must appoint an Executor (some states prefer the title Personal Representative) of your will. The Executor is the person who will carry out your wishes and will execute the will according to your instructions.
It is also important to keep in mind that each state has different requirements as to who may serve as an Executor. In general, however, the person selected as Executor should be over 18 years of age. It will serve you well to choose someone who is, in your opinion, honest, wise and fair.
Give your Executor the power to pay your debts, taxes, estate administration fees and funeral expenses to ease the burden on your loved ones when the time comes for them to settle all your affairs. Your Executor should also be given the power to dispose of or sell any real estate you own, or have an interest in. He or she should deal with these assets as you would wish yourself.
You should make a detailed list of your assets and to whom you wish to leave them in the event of your death. This will greatly assist the Executor when he or she is obliged to carry out the duties of Executor.
You should state clearly who should get what, even down to percentages: this is particularly important with regard to cash, money in the bank, shares or interests in companies. You must also state clearly who should receive these allotted assets should the person mentioned in your will die before you. You will need to spell out that the assets left to the said person who dies before you are to be distributed to the rest of the people in the will, or to a specific person or institute.
You should also include a Residuary Clause, which allows the Executor to take care of all the rest of your assets that have not been mentioned. You might include provisions should the people to whom you bequeath re-marry, by adding the phrase, ‘Per stirpes’, which means that the asset thus bequeathed will pass down the bloodline of the beneficiary.
It is also important to state whether the Executor is to be paid or reimbursed for his or her services.
You should state whether you want your Executor to post bond. This can be an expensive exercise and one you may not want to pursue, if it means a serious drain on the assets you leave to your beneficiaries. Just be careful to choose your Executor wisely.
It is important that you name a second choice of Executor, should your first choice be unable or unwilling to carry out the duties.
Sign your will and have your signature witnessed according to the laws of the state in which you live, or which state you are in at the time of signing. Finally, ensure you store the will in a safe place.
Can a last will and testament be printed or written, or must it be typed? A handwritten will is known as a holographic will. The validity of holographic wills varies from state to state, but they are generally valid. Nonetheless, a proper typed will is preferred and holographic wills are best left for emergency situations.