19 Sep What Should I Put in My Will?
Everyone needs a will. If you die without one, then the court gets to decide who inherits your property and who gets to care for your children. But what should you include in your will, and what should you leave out? In this post, we explore some of the do’s and don’ts of writing a will.
What Are the Requirements for a Legal Will in Arizona?
You can write a handwritten will, make an electronic will, or go with a traditional, typed will. But even though all of these types of wills are legal in Arizona, they still need to meet certain requirements in order to be valid.
- You must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind.
- The will must be signed in your own hand.
- It must be verified by two witnesses.
But even a very basic requirement like your signature can have different rules depending on whether the will is physical or electronic. There are also rules about who can or cannot witness a will. For example, a will cannot be witnessed by any of your beneficiaries or by anyone related to them.
What Should I Put in My Will?
First of all, a simple will needs to start out with a statement of intent. You will need to state your name and declare that this document is your final will and testament.
You can also use your will to:
- Appoint a legal guardian for your children (or a caregiver for your pets)
- List your assets and name your beneficiaries (with some exceptions)
- Name an executor for your estate
Then you’ll need to sign a physical copy of the will in the presence of two witnesses. If you want to make sure that your will is legally valid, it’s a good idea to consult an estate planning attorney. They can also tell you if there’s anything you forgot to include in your will or if there’s anything you need to take out.
What Should Not Go in My Will?
There are certain assets and beneficiaries that you do not want to put in a will. For instance, assets like life insurance that already have designated beneficiaries do not need to be included.
And if any of your beneficiaries have special needs, leaving them an inheritance in your will could disqualify them from receiving important government benefits. Setting up a special needs trust is a much safer way to provide for them financially.
When Do I Need a Will and a Trust?
All wills must go through probate, and be verified by the court before their assets can be distributed. This process can get costly and can drag on for months or even over a year. If you want to avoid probate, there are certain assets that you should NOT put in your will.
Titled property and valuable financial assets typically belong in a trust. That way, they are protected from probate. A trust also gives you more control over who inherits your assets and when.
You can fund a trust with your:
- Real estate property
- Business interests
- Financial investments
- Bank accounts
- Life insurance
- Retirement accounts
What About My Final Wishes?
Because of probate, your final wishes are another thing that it’s better to leave out of your will. Describing your plans for your funeral and burial or cremation in a will is useless if it won’t be verified until months after your death.
If you want to make sure your wishes are carried out, it’s better to draft an advance directive. For example, if you have specific preferences for healthcare, medical treatments, or resuscitation, you can appoint a medical power of attorney. That person will be legally obligated to follow your instructions and to act in your best interests.
Wills and Trusts in Arizona
When it comes to writing a legal will, appointing a power of attorney, or funding a trust, it’s best to consult an expert. The team at Phelps LaClair can give you detailed advice on how best to protect your assets and express your wishes. Find out more about how we can help you secure your family’s future—schedule a free estate planning consultation today.