People who decide that it is time to draw up a will usually have two things in mind. The first one will involve an inventory of their assets so they know exactly what it is that they have to give. And of course they’re going to have to decide who to give it to. So when you put the two together it is, in a sense, similar to developing a gift list. But it is much more profound because these will be the final gifts you give to your loved ones.
There is however a key difference between giving private gifts and drawing up a will. When you use a will as your primary vehicle of transfer your estate has to pass through the process of probate. This is when the probate or surrogate court in the jurisdiction within which you reside will examine your will to determine its validity and ultimately supervise the administration of the estate by your executor or personal representative.
It should be mentioned that the probate process varies to some extent by jurisdiction. If you live in Oklahoma City or Kansas City the precise verbiage of your will is probably going to be different than it would be if you lived in Florida or Alaska.
Because the will is going to be headed for probate, it should be constructed with the assistance of someone who has experience working with the probate court in the state within which you reside. This is the realm of the probate attorney, and there really is no substitute for this kind of expertise.
You’ll see websites claiming to provide “one-size-fits-all” will-creation templates and software, but common sense will tell you that such an important matter is not something that you would want to entrust to a nameless, faceless Internet entity. The smart way to proceed is to arrange for a consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney and have your will created with the local probate laws in mind.