Wills 101: What You Need to Know About Drafting a Will

November 4, 2021

How do you want your possessions to be transferred when you’re no longer here to make decisions?

Many times, we focus solely on accumulation. Growing within our role, achieving our goals, and completing what seems like a never-ending to-do list. Rarely, do we take the time to plan for our death. What happens then?

All that you’ve collected will be distributed. The question is to who and how? A will is one common way to carry out your wishes when you’re no longer here to do so.

The Breakdown of Wills and Why You Need One Now

When you die, assets that are not transferred by beneficiary designations, account titling (payable on death (POD), transfer on death (TOD), Joint tenants with rights of survivorship (JTWROS)), or trust will go to probate court.

In probate court, your estate is administered in accordance with your will. Your will is a legal document that explains how you wish your assets to be distributed upon your passing. This document allows you to have peace of mind ensuring your assets go to the right people and places after death.

A will acts as a catch-all safety net.

Our goal as financial planners is to ensure that your estate transfers free of probate. Inevitably, there are some assets or possessions that slip through the cracks – this is what your will is for.

Having your wishes clarified and an executor determined can avoid unnecessary tension between unnamed family members in your will. Not having a will may result in decision-making in the hands of state laws which may not be what you want.

Why else would you need a will?

  • A will allows an individual to be clear about who gets what assets.
  • It allows you to choose an executor to handle the estate.
  • If necessary, it allows an individual to select a guardian for their children.
  • It allows a person to avoid an unwanted person from obtaining their assets like an estranged relative.
  • You can make charitable gift help your favorite charity and reduce estate tax (if applicable).

When Should You Make a Will?

A common misconception about wills is that you don’t need to worry about one until approach retirement age. This is untrue – accidents happen. You should consider making one under the following circumstances:

  • When you have accumulated some money or other assets & are 18 or older.
  • Marriage or divorce.
  • After you start a business.

Requirements of Making a Will in Delaware

You first must be of 18 years of age or older and be of sound and disposing mind and memory (Del. Code Ann. Tit. 12, § 208). Delaware will not accept audio, video, or handwritten wills. It must be typed and printed using a computer. While Delaware law does not prohibit an “interested person” who stands to inherit under the will to serve as a witness, it is usually not a good idea. To finalize a will, it must be signed in front of two witnesses who also must sign the will (Del. Code Ann. Tit. 12, § 202).

Keep in mind, a probate court usually requires your original will before your estate can be processed. We advise our clients to keep an estate memo. In this memo are names and contact information of financial professionals, passwords for personal and financial account information, all estate planning documents, and any final parting words. Death is hard already, be sure to stay organized to ensure a smooth transition of your estate.

Get Started with Estate Planning 

Need assistance with Estate Planning? Our dedicated team of financial advisors is more than happy to help.