For some people, the thought of drafting a will may be perceived as an overwhelming task because they may consider the process of cataloging all of their assets and allocating them to specific individuals to be an endless undertaking. As with many other jobs that can appear to be too large for one person to accomplish, writing a will can be streamlined by developing a strategy for tackling this chore. Rather than focusing on the end product, individuals who have separated the process into smaller components find success in completing one step and moving onto another. Rather than being haphazard and rushed, this deliberate process can create a detailed document that suits your needs and promotes peace of mind in your beneficiaries.
When viewed as a process, the drafting of a will is not one that can be finished in a day. For those working with an attorney to accomplish this task, they will find that having one meeting to discuss the terms of the will usually won’t suffice. In addition, most attorneys find it helpful when the testator, the name given the individual whose wishes are expressed in the document, brings specific information to a consultation.
In locating this information before your meeting, you may find that you will begin to create a mental catalog of your assets. You can establish the groundwork for an efficient drafting by providing these details:
1. A list of your assets
Included in this register is real estate, cash in checking accounts, retirement savings, jewelry or art. Business owners, artists or inventors may also include trademarks, copyrights or patents for their intellectual property.
2. Account information for insurance policies or an investment portfolio
Locating the passwords and account numbers for these accounts is no small task; however, it is easier for the account holder to access this information than it is for the beneficiaries of the decedent. Determining the cash value of the accounts can help you determine how you’d like the funds allocated. Although most accounts require a listing of beneficiaries when the accounts are opened, there are some types of accounts that can be referenced in your will. Your attorney can find ways to distribute this money efficiently.
3. A letter of instruction
A letter of instruction is a form that has no legal status, but it can provide extra insight regarding where your assets are located and how they should be disbursed. This document doesn’t need to follow a specific format. Including it with your will can aid your beneficiaries in settling your estate.
4. Names of individuals selected as guardians or executors
Individuals who opt out of creating a will or selecting representatives for their estate allow the courts to determine how the property is distributed. Called “intestate,” this process is lengthy and may be costly. In drafting a will and choosing executors, you can ensure that your property is handled according to your wishes. Executors are individuals you choose to mete out your property and handle your debts. Guardians are individuals selected to raise the minor children of the deceased.
Many attorneys will not expect their clients to have a full accounting for all of their assets in their first meeting; however, attending the meeting empty-handed can hamper the writing process. Bringing this information establishes the groundwork for drafting a comprehensive will.