Checklist of Things to Consider When Writing Out a Will

By Cindy Hill

Planning for the distribution of your estate after your death can be a daunting task. The many different interests and financial concerns related to aging and potential illness can make it confusing to know where to start. A checklist of things to consider when writing out a will can help you to organize your thoughts and information to ensure that your will accurately reflects your intentions.

Planning for the distribution of your estate after your death can be a daunting task. The many different interests and financial concerns related to aging and potential illness can make it confusing to know where to start. A checklist of things to consider when writing out a will can help you to organize your thoughts and information to ensure that your will accurately reflects your intentions.

Debts

List the amount and type of your debts to others, including credit cards, mortgages, equity loans, car loans, student loans, personal debts, and outstanding medical or other bills. Do you have enough cash in your accounts to cover these debts? If not, which assets would you like your executor to sell first to cover your estate's outstanding debts? Then list any debts owed to you by others. Do you want these debts to be extinguished at your death, or do you want your executor to collect these debts to add to the value of your estate?

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Assets

Consider all of your assets, listing all your real estate, bank and investment accounts, retirement accounts and valuable personal property, including artwork, musical instruments, firearms collections and antiques. Then reflect on property you may own of sentimental value, including inherited items, photographs, jewelry or any other items which may have personal meaning beyond their economic worth. Decide for each item whether you would like to leave it directly to one of your heirs, or to have it sold to increase the cash value of your estate.

Beneficiaries

Consider who you would like to have inherit any assets you may have left in your estate after the payment of your debts. Include in your thoughts not only your immediate family, but also friends, relatives, and institutions or organizations which have contributed positively to your life, or which you would like to support. Determine which beneficiaries you would like to have inherit specific items, like a treasured family heirloom, and which ones you would like to have inherit all or a portion of your cash assets.

Executors and Guardians

Decide who you would like to have serve as the executor of your will. Your executor could be a family member who is savvy with fiscal matters, or a trusted banker or business person. If you have minor children, determine who you would like to name as their guardian. Name an alternative executor and guardian in case your first choice is unable to serve at the time of your death.

Special Circumstances

Spell out any special circumstances which your executor may need to address, including arrangements for a child who has reached the age of majority but has special needs. If you are specifically excluding a child or grandchild from your will, consider writing that out clearly in your will along with a short statement of the reason, so that your executor and the probate court understand that you did not omit that person by typographical error or mistake. Consider any arrangements you would like to make for the care of livestock or pets, or the continuation of a business enterprise.

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How to Prepare to Make a Will

References

Related articles

What Is Involved in Making a Will?

Your will is a legal document that explains how you want your property distributed after your death. If you have minor children, your will may also explain how to provide for them in terms of guardianship and finances. When making your will, consider such issues as whom you trust to carry out your last wishes and/or raise your children, as well as which people or charities should receive your property when you die.

Will Preparation Checklist

Before preparing your will, gather pertinent information and documentation. If you have all the necessary information written down, you will better be able to organize and prepare a will that expresses your intent. The more prepared you are, the smoother the process of preparing this important document will be.

How to Create a Will With Your Dogs

Making out a will allows you to designate where you want your assets to go when you die. A will also allows you to include instructions for your minor children, providing an opportunity to designate whom you want to serve as their guardian after your death. You may also use your will to provide for any pets you leave behind. An attorney can explain the estate planning laws in your state and can provide valuable information regarding the inclusion of your dogs in your will.

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