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What It Should Include
Your name, your spouse’s name, the date of your marriage, and the names of your children (if you have any). The will must bear your name and signature to be considered valid, plus witness signatures as specified by your state’s laws.
You can leave everything to one person, but you must formally state this. If that person is your spouse, designate new recipients of your personal items in the unlikely event that you die together. (We know, it’s not something you want to think about, but you need to have a backup plan.)
This is the person responsible for making sure your wishes are carried out.
If you have kids, you should appoint legal guardians for them in your will. In most cases, guardianship automatically passes to the surviving spouse. But if something should happen to both of you, the legal guardian of your children will be chosen by your state court unless you designate them now.
How to Draft Your Will
- Talk it out in advance. Write down the location, type, amount, and extent of your individual assets.
- Decide how you’d like those assets to be divided. Designate a successive executor if your first choice can’t do it and who will serve as a legal guardian for your children.
- If your estate is uncomplicated, try a computer software program designed to create basic legal documents (like LegalZoom.com). It's easy to make mistakes, however, so ask an attorney to take a look at the finished product at the very least.
How to Store Your Will
Leave the original with your lawyer but make copies for yourself with their contact info. Keep it in a secure spot, like a safe deposit box or a safe place in your home.
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