A basic guide to writing your will

If there’s one certainty you can bank on in life, it’s that we will all die one day. And when that happens, you will want to make sure you had written a will.

No one likes to think about dying, but we all need to face up to the reality that it will happen at some point. And when it does, it’s important to be prepared. Perhaps not for you – after all you won’t be aware of what happens after your death – but the people you leave behind.

And the best way to be prepared is to write a legally binding will. A will is a legal document that contains your wishes or instructions as to what you’d like to happen to your assets when you pass away.

Trethowans
Trethowans

Without a will, you leave the people who are left behind (or the government) to decide what happens to your assets and finances. Potentially causing tension and arguments when people are already grieving.

Why do you need a will?  

If you don’t have many assets, it’s easy to assume that having a will is an unnecessary hassle. However, there are many good reasons why you should write your will, even if you’re not rich.

With a will, you’ll be able to protect whatever assets you have – however modest they may be. Even if you only have a bank account, you should still write a will to arrange where you want your money to go to when you pass away.

With a will, your loved ones don’t have to worry about allocating your assets or processing your documents – the decisions have been made for them. It can also prevent any arguments breaking out over your estate (however tiny) after your death.

With a will, you’ll be able to prevent any future tensions and guarantee the safety of your assets as well as your children.  

How to write your own will – seven steps you need to follow

Once you’re aware of the importance of having your own will, then next step if to start creating one.

The best time to make your own will is right now. Don’t forget to regularly update your will over the years as your situation changes, you acquire more assets or if you ever change your mind.

Here are the seven steps you need to follow when writing your will.

1) Decide how you’ll make your will

When it comes to writing your will, you have two main options: you can use an attorney, or create your will yourself online with the right software.

To avoid any problems with your will (and ensure it’s legal), it’s wise to consult with an attorney. This is especially important if you have considerable assets, or your will is complicated. If your financial portfolio is simple and modest, you might consider writing your will yourself online.

2) List your assets 

Before writing your will, make a full list of all your assets. This must include everything you own – from property, savings and investments, to valuable possessions like jewellery, heirlooms or artwork.

And not just your valuable assets. If there are items that you specifically want someone to have – even if they are not worth very much – then list them too.

3) Choose your beneficiaries

After you’ve listed down your assets, the next step is to decide who will get a particular possession. Ensure that you write their full legal name so there will be no issues validating their identity. 

When choosing beneficiaries, you shouldn’t name your pets as beneficiaries but rather assign a person who’ll take care of them when you pass on.  

And when assigning beneficiaries to your assets, be as specific as possible. For example, if you’re giving your house deed to four of your children, makes sure you clearly indicate the property percentage each sibling will get. You can assign them to have 25% each, or you can create an uneven designation, depending on your preference.

You can assign a single beneficiary for all of your assets, or you can distribute them however you want to. Just make sure that you choose a beneficiary that you trust and is capable of handling your assets.

4) Pick a guardian for your children

If you have children who are under the age of 18, you should include in your will who you wish to assign as guardian to your children when you pass on.

Before writing down the guardian’s name, make sure that they are responsible and capable of taking care of your children. It’s always wise to choose a guardian who is close to both you and your children, so they’d have an easier time adjusting and getting along with one another.

Very importantly, before you write down your chosen guardian’s name, ensure that it’s a mutual decision between you, the guardian, and your children.

Also tell your children who they should turn if anything ever happens while they’re in the custody of their guardian. It’s also wise that you add a secondary guardian that would take over the responsibility if your first choice wasn’t able to fulfil their duties.

5) Designate an executor

An executor is someone who is responsible for making sure that what is written in your will happen takes place according to your wishes if you die. Their job is to manage and distribute any assets that you have to their respective beneficiaries.  

Most people choose a family member or a trusted friend to be their executor. But if you want to be extra careful, you can hire an attorney, bank, or trust official to act as your executor.

However, if you choose the latter option, you need to be prepared for the added expense as they usually cost 2% to 4% of your estate’s assets.  

6) Get witnesses’ signatures

Once you’ve finished writing your will, you need get a witness to sign it. A witness is required to make sure that the testator (the person making the will) has proper mental capacity during the time they wrote the legal document. This makes the will legal and valid.  

Generally, you should have two witnesses above the age of 18, and they shouldn’t be one of your beneficiaries. Ideally, you should pick witnesses who are younger than you, so they’re most likely to be present to contest in court when you pass away.  

7) Keep your will somewhere safe

After you’ve completed your will, you need keep it in a safe place, such as a secure box, and designate one family member or a trusted friend who can access your will in its location when the time comes to do so.

Your real estate attorney may well offer to store your will at their office if you use one. 

Are you ready to write your will? 

A will is an essential document for every adult. It legally sets out what you want to happen to your assets (and even children) should you die. It make it clear what you want to happen, and ensures that your possessions and finances go to the right people.

So if you don’t already have a will – or your will is now outdated – then maybe it’s time to make arrangements to write one now?