Writing Your Last Will & Testament
Getting together your last will & testament? Discover the core tenants you need to know as you write your will, including the merits of online wills and what can happen should you choose not to make a will at all.
Regardless of your income or family/relationship status, you need a will. Almost everyone does. It makes everything so much easier on your family and loved ones after you pass away, and making a will is a lot easier than you may imagine.
What is a last will and testament?
A will is a legal document you leave behind in the event of your death. It tells the court where your money should be allocated, and dictates intended familial structures should you have dependents. A will is one of the most important parts of the estate planning process.
After you pass away, your money isn’t just automatically distributed. It has to go through the probate process with the courts. This process can be lengthy. Waiting for months upon months to access the funds in your estate may prove harmful to your family, especially if you were a primary breadwinner and you passed away suddenly.
That’s why having a trust fund is such a good idea. Assets held in your trust will not be subject to probate. And assuming you pass away unexpectedly, you can make a pour-over will which will cover any assets you weren’t able to get into the trust prior to your death.
What if I don’t make a will?
Think you can skip the process of making a will? Then when you die, your property will be divided by the laws of your state. In the probate process, this is called intestate. It does not make the probate process go faster, and means that you will have no say in who gets what after you pass away.
What should I include when I make a will?
Every will has a few essential elements. Let’s review.
Your will outlines who will inherit your assets.
Assets like investment accounts or real estate will be assigned heirs in your will. This is who you would like to receive the property or money after your passing. The items covered in your will don’t have to be big ticket items; you can leave a childhood trinket to your sister, your grandmother’s necklace to your daughter, mom’s old box of photographs to your niece, etc.
How and when will they inherit those assets?
Your will also outlines when your heirs will inherit those items. For example, maybe you want to leave money to your son, but you know he’s not going to be able to handle it straight out of high school. He’d blow the money and have nothing left to invest in his future.
You can stipulate that these assets will only be distributed after he finishes college. Or that they are only to be applied to tuition. Or they are to be released as an annual allowance once per year.
You can do all this within a trust, too, but it’s a good idea to include it in your will either way. If you don’t have a trust, all of your assets will have to go through probate and your last will and testament will guide that process. If you do have a trust, having these specifications in your will is important in case you have any assets which you did not transfer into the trust before you passed away.
Who will take care of my children?
This is the most important part of your will, even taking financial matters under consideration. Appointing the guardian of your minor children in your absence has potential ramifications both positive and negative that no amount of money could buy or solve.
You probably have a couple top contenders in mind, though. Sit down — with your partner if you are in a relationship — open up the Tomorrow app, and send a request to the guardian right within the app. If they agree to the arrangement right away, you can write your will in less than ten minutes.
It is important to note that you don’t necessarily have to leave the guardian complete stewardship of your children’s money. Maybe you would like to provide support for them on a monthly basis, but as much as you love the guardian, you know they’d have a hard time managing a lump sum of cash.
In these instances you can set things up so that they will receive a monthly payment; this is likely best facilitated by a trust, though including the provisions in a pour over will is a good idea for any extraneous assets.
Your last will and testament must have an executor.
The executor is a person, of sound mind, who is responsible for making sure that everything you want to happen actually happens. Their responsibilities can include but are not limited to:
- Admitting your will to probate court.
- Locating your assets.
- Paying any bills or debt you may owe out of your estate.
- Finding your beneficiaries.
- Managing the assets (like personal property and financial accounts) in your estate until they are properly distributed.
- Distributing your assets once the beneficiaries are found.
- Filing your tax return.
Appoint your executor carefully. You must trust them implicitly as they will be managing your money in your absence. You don’t want it to be managed poorly before it finds its ways to your beneficiaries. Here's more information about how to choose an executor.
Should I write my own will?
Unless you work at a law firm, it may not be wise to sit down and pen your own will independently. However, if you cannot afford a lawyer and your situation is not overly complex, you may want to look at online wills. Here at Tomorrow, we have teamed up with lawyers the nation over to help you create a legal last will & testament specific to state law. It’s 100% free to make your will in this way, and the process is fast and easy.
If you do have a more complicated situation, it’s worth sitting down with a lawyer. The only thing worse than passing away before your time would be passing away before your time and not having the proper paperwork in place to make sure your family is taken care of.