The Do It Yourself Estate Planning guide
In a world of DIYs, why should you rely on others to do what you can do, all by yourself — including writing your own Will? First, let’s get familiar with some basics, like… “what is a Will?”. Will and testaments are legal documents that outline your wishes for how you and your assets should be handled or distributed in the case of your passing. It is sometimes referred to as Last Will.
Who should own a Will?
Anyone of legal age— usually 18 in most states (please refer to the laws and exceptions governing Will creations in your state) has assets, money, or anything of value.
Dying without a Will, allows the law to determine what happens to your affairs and who takes your assets, all of which is something no one wants for themselves or their loved ones.
Can I prepare my Will myself?
The simple answer is: Yes, you can!
Given the definition of a Will, you have authority over your assets and every right to put down your wishes on paper in case of uncertainty.
However, if you have a vast estate and feel your wishes might be contested upon your demise, you might want to consult the services of a lawyer.
Doing It Yourself is as easy as understanding the below terminologies:
a. Assets: stocks, bonds, NFTs, money, traditional assets (e.g., cars & property), cryptocurrencies, and other items of value (assessing your most updated asset register can be easy peasy with Cova)
b. Beneficiary: the people (or organizations) who you want to receive your assets upon your passing
c. Executor: The person you name to settle your affairs and make sure your wishes, as outlined in your Will, are carried out (your trusted advisor on Cova is usually a good option for an executor; It is generally advisable to have more than one executor)
d. Guardian: the person you want to look after your children, elders, and pets if your spouse is also deceased or cannot care for them (It is usually advisable to have more than one guardian in case the first guardian is unwilling or unavailable at the time)
e. Notary: a person authorized to perform legal formalities across different jurisdictions
f. Probate: the legal process carried out in court after the testator passes away (this is done to ensure your last Will is valid)
g. Testator: you, the person making the Will
h. Disinterested Witness: someone of legal age who is mentally fit, has nothing to gain if the testator dies (cannot be a beneficiary), and can verify your last Will’s authenticity. It is usually advisable to have more than one witness.
5 Easy Steps to Writing Your Will
- Put down your personal information.
In the header of your Will, you have to fill in your name (as the testator) and add your address and details about your spouse and dependents/children (if present).
2A. Add executor information
Who will carry out your wishes being outlined? Depending on your state, there might be some restrictions regarding who can legally be an executor. You could also appoint a successor executor if your executor cannot fulfill their duties due to death or illness.
2B. Include executor compensation and powers
Mention if you want the executor to have specific capabilities or be entitled to compensation. You may also decide to give as much detail as possible, especially about how the executor should be paid, or you can leave it up to the discretion of your beneficiaries.
3. Specify the beneficiaries of your assets
You would need to explicitly name the person(s) and organizations and the specific assets they will receive.
4. Appoint guardians to beneficiaries that may need one
In this section, you’ll point guardians for any minors, elders, or pets that are part of your beneficiaries. You may also designate funds or a payment plan to ease the burden on the guardian during their care of the beneficiaries of your estate.
5. Assign witnesses and append signatures
Check your state laws to determine how many witnesses you need and who can/can’t legally serve as a witness where you live. Witnesses will also need to attest that you are of sound mind and that they witnessed you sign the document without undue influence.
6. Get your Will notarized (OPTIONAL)
Getting your Will notarized further authenticates your wishes and ensures you were not coerced into writing a Will. This is an optional step (except for some states like Louisiana & Colorado), as a properly written, signed, and witnessed Will is legal without notarization.
While I hope this article helps you take complete control of your assets and estate planning activities, what if I told you that you could take full charge of planning your estate by signing up for free on Cova?
Cova also has a fantastic collaboration feature, where you can add your attorney, spouse, trusted advisor, beneficiaries, and executor as you wish. Whatever you wish to stay private while you are alive stays so, as your collaborators don't need to see whatever you don't give them access to in your Cova account.