One tends to avoid talking about death and taxes but ensuring that you have a valid and current Will can alleviate further hardship and stress for the loved ones that you leave behind.
1. Consult a professional
Planning your Will can be a complicated and stressful process. It’s a good idea to find someone who has significant experience in estate planning to guide you through the process. Although “Do-it-yourself” wills seem like an easy alternative, this area of the law is complicated and anyone with significant assets should look for a suitably qualified advisor.
2. Make a list of your assets and liabilities
Before meeting with your advisor, take a comprehensive inventory of your financial assets and liabilities, such as bank accounts, credit cards, investments, retirement funds, life insurance policies, endowment policies, properties and bonds.
You need to ensure that there is sufficient cash in your estate to pay for expenses such as executor fees, funeral costs, master’s fees, outstanding loans, bank overdrafts and credit cards. This liquidity will ensure that non-cash or fixed assets will not need to be liquidated to cover these kinds of expenses. Calculate how much cash your estate will need, should you die.
4. Exercise caution when selecting guardians and trustees
If you have children, naming their legal guardians in the event of your death is a crucial part of the Will drafting process. Be wary of selecting the same person to be both the legal guardian and the trustee—the person in charge of the child’s assets. You don’t want to have one person in charge of everything.
5. Be specific about what your wishes are
Aside from an official Will, write a letter of personal instruction. This may include wishes for funeral arrangements, the location of important documents and account numbers and a list of items not covered in the Will, as well as what you would like done with them. This letter of instruction can also contain instructions on how you wish to be treated should you become incapacitated or placed on life support. This portion of the letter of instruction should take the form of a separate legal document and is often referred to as a Living Will.
6. Ensure your Will is safely kept
It is critical that you ensure that your Will is kept in a safe and accessible location, that is known by your executor and heirs. It is also important to ensure that documents such as your ID, marriage certificate, antenuptial contract, title deeds, and insurance policy details are also stored in a location that is known and accessible to your executor and heirs.
Estate planning requires an in-depth understanding of income tax, estate duties, and personal and business-related legislative frameworks. Wills for you and your family are an essential part of your Estate. They are more than legal documents; they protect your legacy.