This is a guest post from Izzy Woods who is a freelance personal finance writer.
Most people believe that you should wait until you are at least sixty before you considering getting your estate planning – your will writing – completed. Unfortunately, it’s something you should complete much sooner – you never know when your time is up – and do an annual checkup (like you do with your doctor) to see if you need to update.
Will Writing Survey
Rocket Lawyer completed a study on US will writing and found 57% of people didn’t have a will. They also found that 61% of men don’t have a will while 53% of women haven’t got around to completing the paperwork. A high 22% of those over 65 don’t yet have a will. Some 46% of Republicans have a will with the Democrats back at 37%.
If you don’t have a will written correctly, the state will make decisions about how your property (money, home, everything) is distributed. The good news (unless you’ve separated informally) is that your community property will go to your spouse (and domestic partner, but not in all states.)
There is then a list of who gets your estate which may include your children, your parents, siblings and your nieces and nephews. Your grandparents might be due a share and, if they’re not alive, your aunts and uncles. If you don’t have anyone in your family tree, your whole estate will go to the state. They already take enough in taxes, so wouldn’t it be better that it at least went to suitable charities?
There are many reasons you should make your will early in life – once you have something to leave or you have children. The first is that you must be of sound mind to complete your will. If you are not, it’s too late to consider this important legal document.
No Undue Influences
People must not force you to write a will. This does happen from time to time, especially when older children try to force their aging parents to write a will in favor of them and not the other siblings. A new spouse might want you to update your will and leave everything to the new spouse with nothing to the previous spouse’s children. So it is clear that you must not be making a will if there is any undue influence or force from any parties.
Also, your will must be signed and witnessed before at least two people. These people must not be related to you and they can’t be mentioned in your will.
In some states you can self prove your will. This means you don’t have to get your documents notarized. Self proving is using a document to record the signing and witnessing procedure which means the witnesses won’t need to be found after your death, to prove the will was signed correctly. This is often the biggest fault on any wills written at home, making them invalid.
How Must the Will Be Written?
In case you didn’t know, you should use a typewriter (still have one?) or a computer to write your will. A handwritten will is still valid in some states, but they are often fraught with inaccuracies. There's a strong possibility that they are invalid – and no-one will find out until after the person has died when it’s too late to put it right.
You should check both local lawyers and online companies to see where you can get your will written at the right fee. Always look for printable coupons to see if you can get a good deal.Finally, your last reason for writing your will is to ensure that your estate looks after your children, especially if they’re under age when you die. What if you and your spouse died in an accident tomorrow? Would you want the state deciding who would look after your children? Most people would prefer to have named the people and first reserves to look after your kids and give all of your family peace of mind.