What Should You Include in Your Will
Updated: Mar 10
First things first it is important to know what a will is. A will is a legal document that states what should happen to your possessions after you die. Dying without a will means that your heirs will be determined by a court. In addition to who should get an inheritance, there are a few other things to include in your will, like who will serve as personal representative of your estate. On top of that there may be certain requirements set out by your state law that you will need to follow.
A will does not cover everything, so you should consider getting additional estate planning documents to meet your needs. Depending on your situation you may need additional documents to accompany your will such as a durable power of attorney or a health care proxy. Before you get start racing around trying to get all the documents you may need, let's go over what you should incorporate in your will.
First and obvious you must include basic personal information about yourself in a will, like your full name, birthdate, and address. It might also be helpful to list any other names you go by, as well as the names of your spouse and family members and their relationship to you. The goal of your will is to have it be clear and conscious of your requests upon your death. So, start yours off with accurate personal information along with who you wish to list as family and your spouse.
Asset and Beneficiaries
One of the main components of a will is what assets you want to bequeath and who should get them. You can give away things such as money, personal belongings, high-value assets, and even property. The beneficiary of a will can be a family member, friend, charity, business, or even a trust. As another layer of protection feel free to include a contingent beneficiary in your will. This is a person who will receive the assets when the primary beneficiary is dead or unable to receive them.
You will need a personal representative, or personal representative, to carry out the terms of your will. Beyond distributing assets to your beneficiaries, personal representatives manage all your affairs once you have passed. Some examples are settling unpaid debts and filing a final tax return. You can name a family member or even a lawyer to serve as personal representative of your estate and stipulate how much they should be paid in terms of your will. If you have forgotten to name a personal representative in your will, someone will have to apply with the probate court to act as personal representative to handle your estate. If no one steps forward the court will name an administrator for your estate.
Appointment of Guardian
If you have any minor children, you may want to think about guardianship for them. You can name someone to act as their guardian in the event that you and your spouse pass away. You may also be able to name guardians for other dependents such as older children with disabilities or a senior parent. The courts tend to appoint a guardian for you if you do not name someone.
Most states require a last will and testament to be signed by the testator and two witnesses. The witnesses sign the document as confirmation of the testator’s identity and mental capacity to create a will. However, this does not apply for holographic or handwritten wills. The only requirement is that these type of wills are valid in your state. Another aspect to note is someone may still need to prove that the handwriting is yours after you die.
Notarized Self-Proving Affidavit
If it is allowed in your state, you can and should include this short document in a will to make it self-proved so that your witnesses do not have to testify in probate court. Some states may also permit a self-proving statement including in the body of the will itself. The affidavit must be notarized.
What to Keep Out of Your Will
Just like there are assets that you want to include in your will, there are items that you should steer clear of listing in your will. Certain assets that already have a way of being transferred to someone should not be included in your will. This includes a life insurance policy and financial assets with a designated beneficiary, like a retirement account or bank account. You should also exclude property you own jointly with someone else and property held in a trust.
Though you may want to include burial instructions, it is recommended to leave these out since your loved ones will need to make decisions promptly upon your death. They may not have time to take a look at your will before tending to burial matters.
Set Up Your Will with Attorney Bucklin
If you are looking to revise or set up your will for the first time, Attorney Bucklin is here to guide you through the process. From prioritizing your assets to setting up guardianship he will work with you through each step of the process. Get started on creating your will by calling Attorney Bucklin at 781-632-8675 or by filling out a contact form on the website!