Four Items a Will Should Have

Creating a will is the cornerstone of estate planning, don’t underestimate the need for a valid, legal will. It is necessary, even if you have a living trust, to name an executor for your estate, to name a guardian for any children under the age of 18 and to distribute or ‘pour over’ any property not owned by a living trust.

The popularity of do it yourself will kits and forms has increased over the past decade, but there are four things that may be missing from this estate planning document that can make a big difference on how smoothly your estate is ‘settled.’

Successor Executors and Guardians

Naming an executor and a guardian is an important part of drafting a will, but what happens if your choices are unwilling, unable or even unavailable to serve in that capacity? Naming backups, or successors, is critical to keeping these choices within your control.

Bond Waivers

Many probate courts require the executor of an estate to post a bond to ensure the estate and its assets are protected and debts are paid. Without a will that explicitly waives the need for a probate bond, courts may mandate their purchase, meaning more time and expense for your executor and your estate.

Contingent Beneficiaries

Unfortunately, wills aren’t updated as often as they should be. Life changes, and your estate planning documents should change with it. A will should have ‘backup’ beneficiaries in case one or more of your named beneficiaries has since passed away.

Self Proving Affidavits

A will needs to be properly witnessed by at least two parties. A self proving affidavit is an attached document signed by a notary public that shows the will was properly signed and witnessed and that it is the will of the person who signed it. Many states accept these affidavits in lieu of actual witness testimony, and it avoids the time and expense of the executor having to track down the witnesses.

An estate planning attorney can help you create a will that not only has all of the aspects that help your loved ones get through the administration of your estate, but they can work with you on other estate planning tools that meet your needs.

Author Bio

Catherine Hammond is the CEO and founder of Hammond Law Group, a Colorado-based estate planning law firm she founded in 2005. With a strong focus on protecting families from the legal consequences of disability and death, she creates comprehensive estate plans that minimize taxes, costs, and government interference.

A native of Denver, Catherine completed her undergraduate studies at Coe College in Iowa, and her Juris Doctorate from the University of Denver College of Law in 1993, concentrating on estate planning, tax, and mediation. Catherine is a member of various professional organizations, including WealthCounsel, ElderCounsel, the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, the Colorado Springs Estate Planning Council, and the Purposeful Planning Institute. Beyond her legal expertise, Catherine provides transformational coaching to support clients and their families through life transitions.

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