No one likes to think of death and what happens afterward. But while ignorance may be bliss in the short term, it could be detrimental to your family if you don’t make any concrete arrangements. Planning for your estate is essential, and modern conveniences of online transactions make it easier.
But before you get started with your arrangements and have your properties willed, here are some things to consider when applying for an easy online will:
1. Compile the documents needed
Estate planning is not just a will, although that’s the most widely known. There are four basic estate planning documents: a will, a power of attorney for financial matters, an advanced health care directive, and a trust.
Most of these documents can be filled out in online forms, but you might need to obtain a probate code, which is basically the body of law that governs estate planning and implementation.
2. Ensure the legitimacy of online wills
Available online will makers such as Willed are generally safe. However, you must make sure that they comply with federal and state laws. While you don’t need to have a lawyer to create a will given that you have a straightforward financial situation, online will companies still hire legal professionals to make sure that the documents are legally binding.
3. Decide what to include in the will
The basic wills state who should inherit properties and assets. If you have stocks, cash in the bank, big-ticket items such as cars, homes, or real estate land (personal or commercial), you will need to designate a specific wish for them. Under the intestacy system, assets are generally divided in a particular order to provide for a surviving spouse, parents, or siblings. Your life insurance policies will already have a beneficiary and should not be included in the will. Whether you’re leaving all available assets to your spouse or delegating them into a trust, you must list them out and be specific in your wishes.
If you have anything sentimental, be detailed about naming who inherits each particular item. You don’t want family members to fight unnecessarily, so be sure you research your state inheritance laws. Although an expensive and lengthy process, any will which is drawn up must pass through probate. As a result, there may be a considerable delay in the distribution of assets or the will’s beneficiaries may not receive the entire share specified in the document. If any testamentary instruments are missing, the state will distribute an individual’s estate according to intestacy laws. This is why you need the will to be a lawful, secure instrument.
There are limitations that vary from state to state. Here are a few common ones:
- You can’t leave property to your pet as pets can’t own properties. You can make specific directives to make sure your pet is cared for after you die, and this does include setting up a trust for your pet.
- A will cannot keep your heirs from paying taxes on their inheritance. Even if you write specific instructions about not wanting certain assets to be taxed, your wishes will not subvert the federal and local tax laws. If you want to reduce the specific tax burden, you will need to consult an attorney who is well-versed in this area.
- A will is not the best place to list funeral plans because it has to pass through probate. The probate process can take some time, and the reading of the will doesn’t take place right away. Make your funeral plans separately.
- You might want to give a gift, but make it conditional on the recipient carrying out specific instructions in order to receive it. While this idea has been in the movies, it doesn’t always play out the same in real life. Doing a conditional gift could jeopardize your gift from being distributed to the correct person.
- You cannot will a property that’s already held in a trust.
- If you have a property held jointly with one or more other owners, you cannot will your share to someone. Instead, the surviving owners will receive your part of the shared property when you die.
If you have minor children, you’ll need to designate a guardian and a trust for the children to inherit your assets at a certain age. If you have a disabled child or has special needs that will need to be cared for upon your death, you will need to be very detailed in your online will. Keep in mind that the guardian you choose needs to be qualified to help your child, and have a frank conversation with them about adding them into the will.
You will want to appoint an executor of the will so your heirs will not try to gain or assert control over the assets you meant to bequeath to a certain person. Some people form trusts to protect the assets from being squandered or used as collateral.
4. Be meticulous about the details
Once completed, double check your online will for grammatical errors and spelling mistakes. You can have every detail in the will but easily forget key documents that are supportive and essential. As mentioned earlier, the case law and legislation vary from state to state. You want someone who knows the law to look your will over to make certain you don’t make costly state planning mistakes. Or, if you have a good relationship with your executor, have them look it over. Sometimes, it helps to have an extra set of eyes to make certain you have an error-proof document. Every detail matters and typographical and grammatical errors will complicate the will and its interpretation if you aren’t careful. And sadly, you won’t know whether or not you made these mistakes, but your heirs will.
Making arrangements for your family’s future in the event of your death is not something you want to think about, but it’s important to face your fears and overcome them. With a well-accomplished online will, you can have peace of mind knowing that your heirs will be secure.