Planning Your Will: 5 Steps to Get Started

Major life events like marriage, divorce, buying property, or the arrival of a child often provide the momentum most people need to get their affairs in order and prepare a will. A will is an essential legal document that details your wishes regarding end-of-life care, who will manage your finances if you are incapacitated, and who you wish to inherit your wealth and assets after you pass away.

In the state of New Mexico, if you pass without leaving a will that details your wishes, your property would be distributed according to state intestacy laws, with your closest family being the first to benefit. Those without a spouse or children would have their estate distributed among more distant relatives, while those with no remaining living relatives may have the state assume total ownership of their estate.

Writing a will is a reasonably simple process, and with the support of an attorney who is experienced in will and estate law in New Mexico, planning your estate can ensure your wishes are met and your estate will be distributed in a way that avoids conflict among family members. The steps that will be followed are common to every will, although each step is tailored to the individual needs of the client.

5 Steps to Write Your Last Will & Testament

1. Understand What’s Yours

The first thing you need to determine is which assets are yours to distribute and which are not. Your chosen attorney will help you identify and list everything that you own that makes up your estate. This will include any property or land that you own, business interests, savings and possessions that you wish to be left to a particular person in your will.

2. Divide Your Assets

You will then need to decide how to divide your estate, including what each individual will receive and how they will receive it. You may choose to leave everything to your spouse or allocate it according to each asset’s financial value between your children. If you have certain possessions that hold a particular sentimental value to a sibling, cousin, or friend, you can delegate it to them. With a will, you have an opportunity to ensure that each person named will receive your chosen assets.

3. Determine Your Executor

This is the person who will be responsible for seeing that your wishes are carried out after you’re gone. They can also be given power of attorney to make decisions about your care should you become incapacitated, disabled, or enter end-of-life care. You will be granting this person an enormous amount of responsibility, so it’s important to discuss your wishes with them before naming them executor in your will.

4. Appoint a Legal Guardian

If you have children, you will want to appoint a legal guardian for them. For most people, this is often their spouse. However, if you’re divorced, raising your children as a single parent, or wish to prepare for a situation where both you and your partner are gone, you will need to plan for kinship custody. In this situation, you would appoint an appropriate adult, often a family member, to be given guardianship of your children. They would assume all legal and parental responsibilities, including caring for your children on a day-to-day basis, making appropriate medical and educational decisions, and safeguarding any inheritance for them until they turn eighteen.

5. Request Witnesses for Your Signing

Your chosen attorney will prepare your will in accordance with your wishes and witness you signing it. In New Mexico, you’ll need additional witnesses to be present to witness the signing of your will. To avoid disputes in the future, it’s sensible to elect someone who doesn’t stand to benefit from your will to be a reliable witness. From there, you can choose for your attorney to store your will on your behalf or take it with you for safe storage elsewhere.

Changing Your Will

After the initial preparation of a will, many people experience life changing events or have their circumstances change enough to warrant a change to their will. In this instance, your attorney will ensure that your new will specifically states that the previous will is revoked and will be fully replaced by the new one. This will guard against miscommunications or conflicts that could arise from any contradictions between the two wills.

A will is an important document that ensures that your wishes will be carried out by somebody you trust to do so at a point when you are no longer able, whether it is due to illness, disability, or death. It safeguards your family and ensures that your wealth and possessions will be distributed in a fair and carefully considered manner. If you need professional legal advice regarding any aspect of writing your last will and testament, the team at the Law Office of Dorene A. Kuffer can help. Get in touch with us today to discuss your requirements and develop a formal plan that will protect your estate and family.