Wills and Estates: Are you prepared for that next step in life?

May 26, 2022  |  William F. Huefner

Writing a will and planning for that next step in your life can be an emotional and overwhelming process. Many people tend to avoid it until it’s too late. There are several things you’ll need to have in order when setting up your will. It is not as easy as simply writing it up yourself and keeping it in a place for someone to find. A will is something that needs thorough planning, oftentimes with the help of a legal professional. Continue reading to find out how you should properly handle creating your will and what documents you will need.

What are the documents needed for a will?

First things first, what exactly is a will? A will is a legal document that details your wishes regarding the distribution of your finances and property, the care of your minor children, as well as other material possessions you may own in the event of your death. It allows you to direct how your belongings which can include bank accounts, investments, real estate, and jewelry, are distributed and to whom. If you decide to prepare your will yourself, begin by compiling a list of your assets and debts. Be sure to include all contents like safe deposit boxes, family heirlooms, and other assets that you wish to transfer to a particular person or entity. Your will needs to be signed in front of two witnesses to be valid. If you wish to leave personal property to specific heirs, begin a list of those allocations for eventual inclusion in your will. You can also, identify the recipients of specific assets in a separate document called a letter of instruction.

Why do you need these documents?

A failure to prepare a will upon your death typically leads to decisions made on your behalf by local courts or state officials. To avoid the likelihood of successful challenges later, consider having your will prepared by a licensed trusts and estates attorney. Wills can clarify the recipients of your assets and the exact distribution amounts. Also, you can identify who will take care of your minor children if something were to happen to you.

What happens when you do not have a will?

 If you die intestate, the state will basically oversee the dispensation of your assets, which it will typically distribute according to a set formula. There can be even more matters of controversy if your children are minors, as the court will select someone to look after the estate that was passed down to them. Moreover, when you die intestate, you may have tax consequences. If the will is properly prepared it can reduce the estate tax liability.

Choose a personal representative.

Choosing a personal representative is perhaps one of the most important aspects of creating a will. The person that you choose may be your spouse, adult child, or a trusted friend or relative. They will be responsible for administering the estate. The probate courts may or may not supervise the personal representative to ensure that they carry out your wishes that are specified in the will. Your personal representative will also be responsible for paying your bills and deal with debt collectors.

Where to keep your will?

You’re probably wondering where you should keep your will so it stays safe? A probate court typically wants access to your original will before it can process your estate. Bypass placing your will in a bank safety deposit box or any place where your family will need permission from the court to get some type of contact to it. A suggestion of where it could be stored is in a waterproof and fireproof safe in your home, but honestly wherever you feel comfortable storing your will is up to you.


In the end, when writing up your will make sure you have the following in order:

  • Ensure your will is signed in front of two witnesses
  • Make sure that your assets distributed the way you want them
  • Include where to find safety deposit boxes and the assets you wish to transfer to a particular person
  • Choose a personal representative of the estate
  • Keep your will somewhere safe where it will not be destroyed

Find An Attorney

When it comes to Estate Planning and Wills, Barna, Guzy, & Steffen offers guidance in estate planning, family business succession issues, powers of attorney, and more. We can help plan and organize the documents needed for your will and assist you every step of the way. This will minimize and avoid many issues that could arise from your family, businesses, and taxes. Call our office today to speak with one of our trusted legal professionals.