Creating a last will and testament is an essential tool in outlining a person's wishes upon death and can protect loved ones from the stress of distributing assets without proper guidance. To get started, Wang IP Law Group, P.C. has compiled a will checklist of important issues to address in any will:
When drafting a last will, it is important to list who will inherit which of your assets to avoid any possible estate distribution disputes after your death. The writer of the will is referred to as the "testator", and the people who will inherit the property and assets of the testator are known as the beneficiaries. The beneficiaries of a will typically include spouses, children, relatives, friends, or organizations.
It is important to provide detailed information describing the beneficiary so they can be easily identified and located.
Create a list of assets that will be transferred to the beneficiaries. Start this list with significant assets including homes, vehicles, family businesses, etc., and work your way down to smaller items such as jewelry or family heirlooms. Keep in mind, you can only distribute property that is owned solely in your name. Thus, if you are married and your spouse holds joint title on an asset, you cannot leave that property to someone else in your will.
Make sure all valuable assets are accounted for. Certain assets that cannot be passed on through a will must be handled through other methods of estate planning such as a living trust.
List out all of your debts including but not limited to the following:
- Car loans/leases
- Credit cards
- Student loans
- Personal loans
• Outstanding taxes
While your debts will not be transferred to anyone in your will, it can be helpful to get an idea of the financial status of your estate. This will help you accurately plan for any funeral costs, probate expenses, and taxes. Some debts, however, may become the responsibility of the estate, so you may want to consider taking out a life insurance policy to help cover certain expenses upon death.
The executor of your will is the person who will handle your estate based on the provisions in your will. You will choose and list the executor within the will itself. There is always a risk that the executor will take advantage of your assets. Make sure that the person you choose to execute your will is trustworthy of handling your estate and that they are open to accepting this responsibility.
If you have minor children, it is necessary to name a guardian in your will in case the other parent becomes unable to care for them. If the children are still relatively young it may be wise to consider leaving someone else in charge of property they will inherit until they reach the age of maturity.