Some people believe they don't have many assets to leave behind, so a will is not important. Others think they can explain to the family how they want things handled after they pass on, and it will be done that way. The truth is that everyone should have a Last Will and Testament to help the family manage your estate, prevent problems, and ensure the efficient transfer of assets and payment of final bills. Don't write your will on the back of a receipt or a notepad. Here is how to prepare a legal will that can protect your assets as well as your beneficiaries.

Organize Your Assets and Expenses

Prepare a list of current or anticipated expenses. These might include paying off your home, making car payments on a loan balance, funeral expenses, or any of a number of other things. Then, make a list of your expected assets. These could be your savings, investments, final paychecks, real estate, furniture, and valuable collections or possessions. Also take into account who will look after underage children that may be in the home as well as pets and other responsibilities, like caring for an aged parent.

Designate Your Beneficiaries

Decide who you want to receive an inheritance from your estate, which is everything that remains after final costs have been paid. Life insurance, pension payouts, and other income may be added at that point. Make a list of these people, often spouses and children or grandchildren, as well as institutions like a church, charity, or social club. Also, indicate what you would like each person to receive, whether it is a cash payment or a personal item, like jewelry or a car.

Have a Backup Plan

Make a secondary list of bequests that can fill gaps if any should arise when the will goes into effect. For example, if you and a spouse are killed in a car accident, you should designate how the spouse's share of your estate should be rerouted. Do the same for any major bequests you plan to make. If something happens to the designated person, their bequest could fall into legal limbo without your specific instructions.

Prearrange Your Bequests

Let loved ones know in advance what to expect from your estate. This can help to reduce or prevent infighting if they are shocked or disappointed by bequests announced later. You don't have to make it official to them in writing unless you want to, but advising them ahead of time may facilitate the distribution of assets later.

Consult an Estate Attorney

Contact an estate attorney who helps clients prepare a Last Will and Testament along with an estate plan. The will attorney can advise you on many different protections for your assets and beneficiaries. For example, they can help you with the steps for setting up a trust. They could also help you plan for a beneficiary that you are not sure about, such as an adult child's spouse if their marriage appears to be unstable. The attorney can explain the paperwork and help you obtain the needed signatures, executor, and witnesses to ensure the will is legal as well as how to make future changes if needed.

A will is one of the most important legal documents you will ever need to protect your assets and your family. Plan ahead to have everything prepared and avoid problems later.

Author's Bio: 

Anita is a freelance writer from Denver, CO. She studied at Colorado State University and now enjoys writing about health, business, and family. A mother of two wonderful children, she loves traveling with her family whenever she isn’t writing. You can find her on Twitter @anitaginsburg.