Nearly 60 percent of Americans don’t have a will and haven’t done any kind of estate planning.
It’s true that it’s not particularly pleasant to think about your death or what will happen after you’re gone. But, you don’t want to leave your beneficiaries without any kind of a plan, do you?
If you’re not sure where to begin when it comes to writing a will, keep reading. Listed below are nine hacks that will make the process as easy as possible.
1. Take Inventory of Your Assets and Liabilities
First, you’ll need to take inventory of all your assets and liabilities. This will help you determine your net worth and figure out everything that makes up your estate.
Keep in mind that certain assets, such as a family business, will require some special provisions within your estate plan.
Taking time to do some calculations early on will make things easier when you go to actually write your will (or talk to someone about writing it for you).
2. Determine Your Beneficiaries
You’ll also need to figure out who you want to receive your money, house, and other possessions.
It usually doesn’t take people too long to determine their beneficiaries, but it’s still important to think carefully and make sure you’ve identified a specific person to receive all your belongings.
3. Find Someone to Manage Your Plan
Once you’ve thought about your assets and liabilities, as well as who’s going to receive your money and possessions after your passing, it’s time to figure out who’s going to manage your estate. This person is known as an executor.
If you choose a professional, such as an attorney or a bank employee to be your executor, you will likely pay them between two and four percent of your estate’s assets.
Generally speaking, it’s still a good idea to compensate the executor even if you designate a family member or friend to that role. You can either pay them a percentage of your estate or an hourly rate.
4. Hire an Attorney
There are some reputable online programs that help you write a will on your own. In most cases, though, it’s better to just hire an attorney to help you.
When you look for an attorney to help you write your will, the process is similar to the process of hiring a divorce attorney or any other kind of lawyer.
Start by asking for referrals from friends, family, or business associates.
You can also reach out to your state’s bar association and look into their own referral services. They’ll be able to recommend a reputable law practice like Verhaeghe Law Office to help you get your will together.
5. Be Specific
It’s important to be as specific as possible when you’re writing your will. Don’t leave anything to chance, and don’t just assume that everyone will know what you want.
It’s hard to figure out the distribution of all your assets once you’re gone, especially when you have multiple children, stepchildren, or other beneficiaries added to the equation.
This is why hiring an attorney can be so helpful. They’ll make sure that your will is as specific as possible so that nobody is confused when the time comes to go over the will.
6. Be Realistic
It’s also important to be realistic when you’re dividing up your assets. It’s not always easy to make the distribution fair. Think about it: How are you going to divide undividable assets like a piano, a house, or a car?
Instead of slaving over trying to make things totally equal, consider having an honest conversation with your beneficiaries about your assets. Sit down with everyone and talk to them about what you’re planning to leave them and if there’s anything specific they’re interested in.
This helps eliminate confusion, and your kids won’t be able to say the distribution was unfair once you’re gone.
7. Write a Letter to Go Along with the Will
In many cases, your will, by itself, is sufficient. If you work with an attorney to write it up, you can rest easy knowing that your beneficiaries will understand what’s been left to them and why.
If you’re worried about confusion, though, you can attach a letter to go along with the will.
This letter will be read by the executor to your beneficiaries when your assets are distributed. It’s an opportunity for you to say goodbye and clarify and personalize your wishes.
8. Store Your Will in a Safe Place
There’s no point in writing a will if it’s going to be impossible for your beneficiaries to find after you’ve passed on.
Don’t leave everyone guessing about whether or not a will exists. Store it in a safe place and let someone you trust know where they can find it.
A fireproof safe is a good place to keep your will. It’s also a good place to store other important documents, passwords, and other information your beneficiaries might need.
9. Review and Update Your Will Regularly
Depending on your age and life situation when you write your will, you may find that your wishes change as you get older.
Maybe you get divorced and remarried, or maybe you have another child and need to change the distribution of your assets.
Life can change, and it’s important to make sure your will changes along with it.
Review and update your will on a regular basis — once every few years should be fine — to make sure it’s as accurate as possible and reflects your current wishes.
Final Thoughts on Writing a Will
Writing a will may seem daunting at first. But, if you keep these hacks in mind, you’ll find that the process is easier than you originally thought.
As far as adulting goes, writing a will is one of the most grown-up things you can do. There are plenty of other things you can do to make sure you’re future (and your family’s future) is secure.
Check out our hacks for grownups to learn more useful tips and skills every adult needs to know.