When a will attorney sits down with a client to create or modify documents, they need to ensure several basic things are present in the will. These four items should be high on your checklist before you retain will attorney services.
Executor and Successor
An executor is the party responsible for seeing that a grantor's wishes are followed. Typically, the executor should be someone with little to no interest in an estate. For example, you might have a trusted business partner or an uninvested relative handle the job. It may be tempting to have your will attorney serve the role, but it's best to separate the drafting of the document from its execution.
Bear in mind that the executor will have a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries. Do not name someone for the executor role without first asking them if they're willing to accept that responsibility.
It is also wise to name a successor. This is a person who'll serve the executor role if the original one is unavailable, incapacitated, or dead. Absent a successor, a probate court will appoint an administrator.
Someone needs to get something from the will. Even if your goal is simply to transfer all of your assets to the local animal sanctuary, there should still be a beneficiary structure to make that happen. You need to name each beneficiary as accurately as possible and provide accurate contact information.
It is a good idea to contact the beneficiaries to update their addresses at least once a year. Folks who are uncomfortable directly asking for this reason often do the update while checking addresses for their holiday card mailing lists.
Accounts, Assets, Debts, and Trusts
Accounts and assets need to be explicitly identified in the will. Otherwise, the executor will have to exercise their best judgment regarding which beneficiaries get what items. If you're integrating any trusts into the will, such as a testamentary trust, you need to include terms that will activate the trust upon your passing.
Similarly, you should identify all outstanding debts and tax bills. Fund the estate to ensure the executor can settle these obligations because creditors can take the estate to court.
Integration and Cancellation of Previous Terms
If there is a previous will, you should expressly identify it. This will reduce potential confusion over which document might apply. If you're adding to the will, you'll need to integrate its terms into the new will and then cancel. Although you could make amendments, a will attorney will encourage you to do a full rewrite and then cancel the old one entirely to eliminate any risk of confusion.Share
30 September 2022
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