Leaving behind a will in the event of your death is one of the most important preventative actions you can take in protecting your property, assets, and most importantly, surviving loved ones. Since you won’t be there to resolve any disputes that may arise, it is essential to cover all your bases when writing a will and testament.
To make the process easier, here are ten things not to forget when writing your will.
1. Identifying an executor.
One of the first items you will need to address in your will is who will be your executor, or personal representation on your behalf. It is the executor’s job to ensure that your will is carried out as you intended. You should also provide an alternate executor in case the original passes away too, or is otherwise incapable of doing the job.
2. Naming beneficiaries of specific properties.
It is your responsibility to identify any beneficiaries of specific assets. For instance, if you would like a family heirloom to be given to your child, then you must note what the item is, and to whom it should be given. (Example: “To my daughter, Sarah, I leave my…”) These items are called bequests. Bequests can include money, property, or real estate. They typically are used to distribute property amongst family, but you can also specify bequests to friends, work associates, charities, or other organizations.
3. Specifying alternate beneficiaries.
Although not necessary, it is wise to name alternate beneficiaries, in case an original beneficiary passes away. You have two options in specifying an alternate beneficiary: 1. Identify a backup recipient, or 2. State that the original beneficiary’s living relatives are to be given the bequest instead.
4. Identifying people or organization to have all remaining property.
If, after specifying beneficiaries, there still remains property to distribute, be sure to name an individual, group of people, or an organization (such as a charity or business) to have any outstanding property. In most wills, this property is called the “residual estate.”
5. Instruction on dividing your personal assets.
Providing specific instruction how your beneficiaries are to divide the property is a helpful way to leave behind clear directions. Identify what assets exactly are available to be distributed, as well as if the property should go directly to the beneficiary or sold and the profit from the sales divided evenly.
6. Instruction on dividing your business assets.
Property associated with business is completely separate from personal assets. If you, or your parents, will leave behind any business assets, remember to specify how you would like it handled. Consider hiring an estate planning attorney to assist you.
7. Note how expenses, debts, and taxes are to be paid.
If you have any residual debts, or owe taxes, describe how they are to be taken care of. Identifying a bank account is a common solution. Also, don’t forget to note how funeral and probate costs are to be covered.
8. Forgiving debts others owe you.
You may also wish to make the kind gesture of canceling a debt another individual owes you, freeing them, or their survivors, from having to repay the debt. This is not required, but common generosity.
9. Instruction on maintaining real estate.
If you have named a beneficiary of your home or other real estate, then the upkeep of the property can also be addressed. List any specific directions on the maintenance of any real estate you are leaving behind.
10. Naming a caretaker for pets.
For those who have pets, don’t forget to identify an individual to be responsible for caring for your furry companion as well. Talk to a family member or friend who will provide a loving home, and name the person in your will. Some people also give the beneficiary a small sum of money to cover the cost of caring for the animal.
The best way to ensure that your family and friends will be taken care of after you are gone is to make the proper provisions in your will. Attorneys who specialize in estate planning can guide you through the process, review the final will to make sure nothing was left out, and answer any questions that arise.
Don’t wait until it is too late. Consult with an estate planning lawyer today to discuss your will.