Things to Remember When You're Writing Your Will

Part of the Estate Planning For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Basically, probate is the method by which your estate is legally transferred after you die. When planning your estate and writing your will, keep these tips in mind to help the probate process run smoothly:

  • You can be both specific and general in your will — it's up to you. You can parcel out individual items to people by name and also let your beneficiaries decide how to divide up your worldly goods.

  • State law does have something to say about the language of your will, however. Your state has a number of will statutes that may override a provision of your will if you say something that's against the law.

  • Certain parts of your will "self-adjust" to changes in your estate and your family. For example, even if you don't update your will after a child is born or if you adopt a child, your will covers the child just the same so that the child isn't accidentally cut out of an inheritance.

  • You can get around much of the time-consuming, inconvenient, and costly process called probate by creating trusts and using will substitutes, such as joint tenancy with right of survivorship and payable on death accounts.

  • If you own real estate property in another state, like a time share by the shore, you may need to worry about going through probate in that state, too.

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