Writing your will
HERE ARE SOME GUIDELINES to writing the last will and testament for someone with a simple estate. It is possible to prepare such a will entirely without the counsel of an attorney-at-law.
It is recommended, though, that for very highly valued estates, or where the assets in the estate or the plans for their distribution are complex, that the testator seek the counsel of not only an attorney-at-law but also a financial advisor.
Let us assume that your estate is a simple one, both in term of the class of assets as well as the plans for distribution. Say your assets are various savings, investments in the stock of a couple of public companies, your vehicle and your home along with various household furnishings, appliances and supplies, your jewellery and other collectibles, and your clothes, shoes and so on.
In our last article we identified the detailed information you would have collected and have ready. In addition, you would have made note of the contact details of people who would now feature in your will – the executor and alternate executor, the beneficiaries, the guardian for your minor children, and the witnesses. You are therefore in a position to start.
First the heading: The Last Will and Testament of (your full name)
• First paragraph: This is the last will and testament of (your full name including any other name or aliases) born on (your birth date) and residing at (your address). Any other will written by me before this will shall be considered null and void on reading this will.
• Second paragraph: I appoint (full name of executor) as the executor of this will and where s/he is unable to fulfil the duties of executor, I appoint (full name of alternate executor) to take over the duties of executor.
• In the third paragraph: According to my bequests, my estate shall be divided as follows: (set out your bequests, possibly using a different line for different classes of assets, alternately using a different line per beneficiary). l Fourth paragraph: In case my spouse does not survive me, I appoint (name of guardian) as legal guardian for my minor children, (name of children). (Name of guardian) will be responsible for all financial and other affairs of (name of children) until they attain legal age.
• Final sign-off: I hereby sign this will on (date of signing).
• Attestation by witnesses: We, the undersigned, hereby declare that (your full name) signed this will and testament in our presence, and we also signed it in his/her presence, being of sound mind.
• Name of Witness 1
• Name of Witness 2
With this structure in hand, preparing your last will and testament is relatively simple. Certainly an attempt to capture your last wishes and give effect to those wishes is just as good as the perfectly drafted document and definitely better than nothing at all. The very exercise makes you think through your bequests, hopefully in good time.
So the question is, do you have a will?
• Louise Fairsave is a personal financial management advisor providing practical counsel on money and estate matters. Her advice is general in nature; readers should seek personal counsel about their specific circumstances.