A will is a valuable estate planning document that communicates how your estate is to be distributed.
In the beginning, creating a will may seem overwhelming. But creating a will preparation checklist can help organize and identify the necessary elements of a legally enforceable will. A will preparation checklist aids in the organization of your assets and ensures that your estate is distributed according to your wishes.
Testate v. Intestate
If an individual dies testate, this means the individual has prepared a testamentary document or will detailing the distribution of their estate. Intestate means an individual passes away without a will. In this instance, the laws of intestate succession determine how the decedent’s estate will be distributed. The laws of intestate succession dictate who receives all or portions of your estate upon your death.
Probate is the court-supervised process of overseeing the estate of an individual that has died intestate or testate. If an individual dies intestate, the court supervises settlement of the estate. The probate process can be lengthy and expensive.
Contents of a Will
There are several essential elements you will need to think about when preparing your will.
First, you should think about who you would like to appoint as your Executor. This is the person who will carry out the instructions in your will. You should also think of successor Executors to take on the responsibility if your first choice is unable to.
Think about everyone you would want to include in your will – your beneficiaries – and what you would want them to receive from your estate.
If you have minor children, you will need to consider who will care for them if you pass away. Clear instructions will alleviate uncertainty for your children and prevent disputes among your family members.
Identification of the above points provides an attorney with clear direction when preparing your will.
The following will information checklist serves as a starting point for creating a detailed and complete will:
- The names of any chosen beneficiaries to your estate, including a spouse or domestic partner, children, or grandchildren;
- The birthdates and the current addresses of all beneficiaries identified in the will;
- If you were previously married, the name of your prior spouse and any children from that marriage;
- If you have any minor children, the name and contact information of the individual you choose to designate as the guardian of those children;
- The name and contact information of the individual you wish to name as the executor of your will;
- The manner of distributing of your estate, i.e., all at once or incrementally when specific events occur, such as a beneficiary reaching a certain age;
- Information regarding any real estate, including your primary residence, second homes, or investment property;
- Complete list of personal property, including jewelry, artwork, collectibles, electronics, or other items of value;
- Vehicles, boats, or motorcycles and their vehicle identification numbers (VIN);
- Investment accounts such as brokerage accounts, stocks and bonds and detailed information about those accounts, including account numbers, ownership amounts, and current values;
- Retirement account information, such as IRAs, 401ks, and life insurance policies, including the current beneficiaries and the value of the accounts;
- Checking and savings bank account information, including jointly held accounts, sole accounts, safe deposit boxes, and any transfer-on-death accounts (TODs);
- Identification of business interests;
- Identification of any trusts created in your name and trusts in which you have an interest or your spouse/domestic partner may have an interest;
- Complete identification of all debts and liabilities;
- Copies of any previously created wills, trusts, power of attorney, or other testamentary document.
As you complete the points of this checklist, be sure to note any questions you may have regarding your will and will preparation.
A will ensures the proper transfer of your property upon your passing. Contact experienced estate planning attorney Adam Curley of The Curley Law Firm to learn more about creating a will specifically tailored to your wishes and estate planning goals.