Congrats – you’ve finally done your will. Now, finish the job
Let’s acknowledge one thing from the start – no one looks forward to preparing a will. We may have the best of intentions, but death is something that few want to consider.
For this reason, there is often delay and procrastination in creating an up-to-date will – and tremendous relief when you finally get it done. You walk out of the lawyer’s office, breathe a sigh, and thank the heavens you don’t have to go through that again, at least for a very long time.
But, if like most people, you have the dual intention of ensuring your assets go to your intended beneficiaries, and ensuring the estate settlement process is straightforward and as easy as possible on your family, then you’ve still got some work to do to finish the job.
It’s not a lot of effort, but there are some essential steps to ensuring your wishes are carried out easily and as you intended. Here are three to consider:
- Store your will safely – and where people can find it: We get it – you may not want your house cleaner to review the contents of your new will. But hiding it in a place that no one can find isn’t the answer. Courts need the original copy of your will for a smooth probate process, so don’t make it hard to locate. Whether it’s stored at your lawyer’s office, or registered with the court, or stored in a filing cabinet at home, make sure that you and your loved ones remember where it is and know how to access it. We explored this issue in more detail here:
- Make a list of your assets: Don’t assume that your family knows what you own. Most of us have assets scattered through numerous accounts and institutions, and property (such as cars, art, and jewelry) could be in more than one location. You may also have assets that you inherited from others. So make it easy for your executor – keep an up-to-date list of your assets (including account numbers, user names and passwords for virtual assets, and insurance policy numbers) with your will.
- Talk to your family: Ideally, before you drafted your will, you talked to all family members with any expectation of inheritance and told them your estate intentions. This gives you the opportunity to listen to any concerns and to explain why you’re planning to distribute your assets in a certain way. But even if you didn’t talk to family members before drafting your will, it’s not too late. To minimize the chances of an estate dispute, let family members know what’s in your will. In many cases, just letting people know the reasons behind your estate decisions is enough to cut off potential disputes before they happen.
Thank you for reading,