So, you don’t have a large or complicated estate. Your kids are far into adulthood and self-sufficient. You don’t need a living trust. You aren’t that concerned what happens to your money after you pass, and you need a simple will, but you don’t want to pay an attorney to create one. Fair enough.
Tackling a simple estate plan on your own is relatively straight-forward if you are willing to learn a few things. The downside is if you miss a technical detail, your will may be unenforceable and defective. This blog provides some basic details in creating your own will. It is not legal advice. If you have any questions or issues at all, please contact an attorney.
First, make a list of your assets. Please see our blog on dying without an estate plan to determine what happens to your assets if you do not have a valid estate plan in place. If you fail to determine everything you own, and account for the same, then any asset not listed in your will are disposed of through Nevada’s interstate succession laws. Thus, you must list every asset you own if you want to determine who, or what, gets such assets when you die.
Second, make sure you own those assets. Sometimes the things you own might not be in your name. For example, perhaps a loved one gifted you a house or vehicle. But perhaps the loved one never transferred title in your name. Or perhaps you are a beneficiary of a Nevada trust but do not actually possess title to the trust funds. Even if you account for such assets in your will, the will does not transfer those assets unless you are listed on title. Thus, you should review to make sure, and correct, any such issues while you are still alive.
Third, draft a will. Dragonlawgroup.com provides a template will for your convenience. Please Contact Us to request one. Fill in the blanks that are provided. Make sure you list a beneficiary for each asset listed in the will. Read the will after you fill it out. Do not be intimidated by any “legalize” language within the document. A lay person should be able to understand a will drafted legal document, so it should make sense to you.
Fourth, Sentimental Items. for any sentimental items where its important that the correct person receives them upon your death, make sure you specifically list such items. For instance, I will that simply says “half of my assets go to my son and the other half goes to my daughter” does not account for specific items. Thus, if you have a painting, for example, that you want to gift your daughter, but your son wants it too, the Court will order to have the painting liquidated. Your children will split the sales price of the liquidation, but neither will get the painting, making it critical that you list such items.
Fifth, Power of Attorney and Healthcare Directive. Should you become unable to make your own financial or medical decisions in the future, you must have a power of attorney and healthcare power of attorney to make those decisions. Make sure that you fully trust whoever you name to make these decisions and provide two to three alternative people to substitute if the first person you name passes away before you.
Sixth, Execution. Execution is very important. If your will does not meet Nevada probate formalities, then the will is defective. The most important thing is that you sign the will and a self-proving affidavit in the presence of two witnesses and the notary who notarizes the will. It does not matter who the witnesses are, so long as they are mentally competent and not a beneficiary of the will.
Seventh, Store the will. Your will is useless if none of your loved ones knows you have a will or cannot find it. Thus, it’s a good idea to keep multiple copies of the will in your home. Store one in your bedside, in a safe, in your office, and on your computer where someone can easily find it.
Repeat steps one through seven every time you change or amend your will. However, label the numbered version of your will. For instance, “Second Last Will and Testament of the Jessica Smith Will.” By doing this, it will not be confusing which will controls. Make sure to destroy all copies of a previous will.
Finally, should you have any issues or questions, please contact an attorney for assistance.