Writing a Will: Several Dos and Don’ts and Why You Need One

Are you ready to start estate planning and writing a will? Let's explore several dos and don'ts of the estate planning process.

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Key Takeaways

  • Write a will to help preserve your assets and protect your wishes

  • Include personal property and other assets, not just money

  • Name a guardian to care for any minor children or dependents

  • Choose beneficiaries for life insurance policies and retirement accounts

When the topics of estate planning and writing a will come up, do you change the conversation? You’re not alone. Most people don’t like to think about their own deaths. In fact, only four out of ten U.S. adults have a will, according to a 2017 survey from Caring.com. However, it’s important to put your reluctance aside and write your will sooner rather than later. Without one, the state where you live will control who gets your hard-earned assets, and the outcome may not be what you intended.

You don’t want to leave your estate to chance, says David J. Dietrich, chair of the American Bar Association Section of Real Property, Trust and Estate Law. Just look at what’s happening with the estates of Prince and Aretha Franklin. Both died without a will. Now it’s up to the courts to determine the division of assets, which could take years and result in sizable attorney fees. Don’t leave your legacy to chance.

Goals and Purposes of Writing a Will

Whatever your age, profession, or income, a properly written will can help you accomplish a number of significant goals:

  1. Name an executor for your estate
  2. Ensure the smooth transition of assets
  3. Designate a guardian for your kids
  4. Avoid family strife

As you consider writing your will, here is a list of Dos and Don’ts:

Estate Planning Checklist

Follow this checklist to help make sure your estate plan wishes are known and necessary documents are in place.

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Key Takeaways

  • Write a will to help preserve your assets and protect your wishes

  • Include personal property and other assets, not just money

  • Name a guardian to care for any minor children or dependents

  • Choose beneficiaries for life insurance policies and retirement accounts

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