Today’s guest post is from Paula Novac about wills:
When you marry, your circumstances change considerably. Instead of being two single people, you become one, financially, although many will argue this point and maintain their finances separately.
Until a recent change in legislation, some states’ laws said that when you marry your will becomes invalid and you need to make another. Under the Uniform Probate Code rules of 2009, a will is no longer made invalid on the completion of the wedding vows. Some states were a little slow in enacting the law, but by January 2nd, 2012, a will anywhere in the United States is valid the day before you marry and the day after.
However, you may wish to update it to take into account the many changes to your financial circumstances as you start reassessing your bank accounts and making a savings rates comparison.
Writing your first will
Despite the law, getting married does make some legal changes to where your estate goes if you do not have a valid will. More of the estate will go to your newly married partner. Before you were married, your partner would have received much less than expected if either of you had died without writing a will.
Writing your will isn’t only for those with millions of dollars in their bank account. As soon as you have assets you need to get your will written so you can name exactly who gets what from your estate should you die.
Writing a will may save you tax by planning the content of your will correctly and introducing trusts where required to gain maximum advantage from the tax laws.
One of the main reasons for writing a will is for the sake of your children if they are under the age of eighteen. If both parents should die together or within a short time of each other, you wouldn’t want a government department to make major life decisions about your children, especially if this concerns who they will live with and under what rules. If your will is up to date it will contain guardianship information to ensure that your children are looked after in the manner and with the people you choose.
Will writing rules
When your will is being written there are some rules you must abide by. The first says that in most US states you need to be at least 18 years of age. You must be of good mental standing and be making your own decisions. You must not be influenced to write your will to benefit others when that is not your wish.
You will name people who you trust to manage the administration of your will – possibly your married partner if one of you remains in good health – perhaps a good friend or close family member who will become your executor.
You don’t need to notarize your will, but doing so can be a good safeguard against anyone making claims that your will is invalid for whatever reason. To ensure your will is valid, it must be signed by two independent witnesses, not your married partner or close family members.
Choosing your executor(s)
Often an overlooked part of the process, it is vitally important to choose people you trust and who understand your after death requirements for your partner and your family. Executors are the responsible people who will settle your estate for you after you die. You should also name an alternative person – contingent – to take over if your first choice is unable to do the work at the time.
They will have a number of key roles in administering your estate after you die. They will take the register of your property and belongings. They will source valuations for your assets and distribute them in the manner your will directs. They will pay your outstanding taxes and liabilities, from your finances.
The first choice of executor is always the other of a married couple, unless they are too old, too fragile or could not carry out the tasks associated with the role.
They have a legal duty to carry out the role in your interest which is why the writing of the will should be completed with the help of an attorney unless your estate is quite simple.
Finally, once your will is written, it is very important that you review your will from time to time to ensure it is up to date and matches your current requirements.
Paula Novac is a UK-based personal finance writer. She works on behalf of a number of clients, including a current account comparison service and a business loans provider.