After you are deceased, your money, possessions and property make up your estate. Your will instructs what should happen to these items in the event of your death. However, if you do not leave behind a will, the law dictates how your estate will be passed on, which may not be in line with your wishes.
Three main reasons you should make a will:
1. It makes things far easier for your friends or family to deal with the administrative process when you die. Without a will, this process can be time consuming and stressful.
2. If you don’t have one, your possessions will be shared among your loved ones in a standard way defined by the state laws, which is not necessarily what you might want.
3. It’s especially important to write a will if you have family members who depend on you financially, or if you want to leave anything to people outside of your immediate family.
What your will states:
The document will tell people two main things:
Who should have your estate when you pass on.
Who should be in charge of organizing your estate and following your instructions – this person is called your ‘executor’. You can name more than one person if you like.
Your will can also be used to tell people about any of your other wishes, such as instructions for your burial or cremation.
The executor will do their best to ensure your will is followed, as long as your wishes don’t involve breaking the law. Note than it may not always be possible for the executor to carry out your instructions, but if you do have a will there’s a better chance of things happening the way you want them to.
Making sure your will document is legally valid:
It doesn’t have to be written on special paper or use excessive legal language. Your will is valid as long it adheres to the following conditions:
It states how your estate should be divided when you die.
It was written while you were in the right state of mind to make your own decisions, and you weren’t pressured about who to leave your belongings to.
It is signed and dated by you in the presence of two, (or in some states, three), independent, adult witnesses, and then signed by these witnesses in your presence. Note that these witnesses can’t be people who are going to inherit any of your estate (or their wife/husband/civil partner).