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  • Northern Virginia Trusts & Estates

Basic Steps to Creating a Will

Preparing a will may be something many people find a little morbid, but it’s a very important thing to do.  Even though it does mean thinking about one’s own death, creating a will not only provides guidelines for the distribution of your property, it can also help protect your heirs.  It will often save them money and time and it will also remove any question or doubts as to your final wishes and decisions.

Drawing up a will is actually a fairly easy process.  First, you need to determine what type of document you need, and to do this, you should meet with an attorney who specializes in wills and estate planning and can guide you through the process and answer your questions.  Do I need a simple will, or something more complicated like a living trust?  This often depends on several factors, including how much property and other assets you own.  You can write your own will, of course, but these types of wills can be more easily contested in court if one of your heirs decides that he or she is not getting what he deserves.

It is important to go through and organize everything.  Make a list of all of your assets, your debts, who you want to name as beneficiaries, and what the objectives for your estate are.  Make certain you list everyone who is to receive property, and their relationship to you.  Note, you can dictate a beneficiary to receive anything not specifically addressed in the will, by leaving the remainder of your estate to that person.  If you do not do this, the property may be distributed according to state law.

If you have children, be certain to name a guardian.  If you are survived by your spouse, he or she generally becomes the sole guardian.  However, if you are raising children by yourself, or if your spouse is unable to take over guardianship, you will need to name a different guardian.  This person needs to be at least 18 years old.

You also need to name an executor.  Your executor will be the person who makes certain all of your property and other assets are divided as you’ve directed.  Generally, the executor is a relative, close friend, or even your attorney.

Finally, don’t forget to update your will on a regular basis, as much changes from year to year.  If you get married or divorced, have a child, make a large purchase, or move to a different state, to name just a few instances, you may need to make changes to your will to ensure that it remains both legal and accurate.

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