On behalf of Sayer Regan & Thayer of Sayer Regan & Thayer, LLP posted on Thursday, October 13, 2022.

Whether you don’t have a will yet and want one, or you already have a will but need to amend it, it’s wise to get in touch with your trusted estate planning attorney as soon as possible. A will is just one part of a comprehensive estate plan, but it’s one of the most important ones and therefore should be done properly.

A will is essentially a legal document that spells out an individual’s wishes for their possessions after they die. Within the will, provisions can be made for both personal property and real estate. The deceased person is the testator and the person in charge of executing the will is the executor.

If you don’t have a will in place when you die, this can translate to headaches for your surviving family members as they struggle to know how to disperse your assets. Leaving behind a will helps ease this process and makes it simpler for your family members to know exactly what to do with your property upon your death. You don’t want them to have to guess, which not only places undue stress on them as they deal with the aftermath if you die, but it can also pit members of your family against each other and lead to fights about the best course of action.

A will is a core document that will help you protect yourself and your family. Here’s who and what should be included in your will.

WHAT Should Be Included in a Will

Here are the basics that your will should contain.

• Personal Information: This includes name, date of birth, and address, as well as aliases and the names of your immediate family members.
• Last Will and Testament Wording: All wills must contain certain legal language, to the effect of “This is my last will and testament.”
• Property and Assets: List all assets, belongings, money and real estate that you want to leave behind to specific beneficiaries. This will ensure all significant assets are passed to the right people when you die.
Beneficiaries: Now that you have listed your assets, you have to list who you want them each to go to. More on this later under “who should be in your will.”
• Executor and Guardians: Again, more on this under “who should be in your will,” but in a nutshell, your will should include an executor who you would like to carry out certain duties after your death. If your children are still minors, or you take care of a disabled or elderly adult, you will need to designate someone as a guardian of them.
• Signatures: You will need to sign the will yourself, plus witnesses must also be present to sign.

WHO Should Be Included in a Will

Now onto the “who” of the will. You will need to name the following people in your will:

• Your Beneficiaries: You already listed your assets. Now you have to list who you want them each to go to. These individuals are called beneficiaries. They can be family members, your children or friends, but you can also leave assets to a business or charity. It’s smart to list contingent beneficiaries should the primary beneficiary pass away before you do.
• Executor: This person will be in charge of carrying out certain duties after your death, adhering to the terms of your will and managing practical affairs such as bills and taxes. This is important. If you don’t name an executor, the court will name someone for you, and it’s not always who you would have wanted.
• Guardianship: If children are involved who are still minors at the time of will creation, you should name a guardian for them in the event you and your spouse die unexpectedly. Also, if you care for an aging or disabled family member, such as a parent, you need to name a guardian for their care. Pets can also be given a guardian.

It’s important to be specific about who you wish to get your assets upon your death. You can’t assume that assets will be divided in an equal manner among all your children or other beneficiaries.

Don’t forget to indicate how your debts and final expenses should be settled. As a general rule, it’s not wise to include funeral arrangements in your will, as the funeral is usually held well before the will is processed. Instead, spell out burial arrangements and funeral information in a separate document.

Keep in mind that insurance proceeds from your life insurance policies will automatically go to the beneficiaries that have been stated on the policy.

Contact Sayer, Regan & Thayer LLP to Create or Amend a Will

Make an appointment when you call us for a free, no-obligation consultation at 866-378-5836. Our estate planning attorneys can help create a will or amend an existing one so as to maximize the efficiency of your estate plan.

These materials have been prepared by SRT for informational purposes only and are not intended and should not be construed as legal advice.