What Documents Do I Need to Bring to Prepare a Last Will & Testament?

By A.L. Kennedy

You can help your attorney prepare your last will and testament by bringing certain documents with you when you and your attorney meet. These documents will help ensure that your will covers all necessary topics and contains correct information, making it more likely your desires will be carried out after you die.

You can help your attorney prepare your last will and testament by bringing certain documents with you when you and your attorney meet. These documents will help ensure that your will covers all necessary topics and contains correct information, making it more likely your desires will be carried out after you die.

Beneficiary Information

To prepare your will, your attorney will need information about the people to whom you wish to leave your property. Typical information attorneys ask for includes information about your beneficiaries' full names, addresses and other contact information, a Social Security number, and the birth certificate or adoption papers for any minor children you have. While many people have this information memorized, especially if their beneficiaries are their own children or other close relatives, bringing the documents can help ensure you and your attorney do not make a mistake.

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Asset Information

Information about your assets is crucial to preparing your will because your will distributes your assets to your beneficiaries. When preparing a last will and testament, bring copies of the paperwork related to your assets. These include documents like a copy of the deed to your house or other real estate, the title to your vehicles, and bank statements or other papers related to your retirement or other investments. If you own rare or valuable personal property, you may also wish to bring paperwork from an appraiser that indicates the property's value, especially if you wish to leave specific items to a certain beneficiary.

Debt Information

Along with the information about your assets, you will also want to bring documents related to your major debts, if any. For instance, bring documents related to your mortgage, car loans, student loans or consumer debt. Your attorney will use this information to figure out approximately how much your net estate is worth, which will help you decide who should distribute the estate. It will also allow you to develop a clear financial picture so you can begin paying down your debts while you are still alive, allowing you to leave more assets to your beneficiaries.

Contact Information for Your Executor and Guardian

Your executor, or personal representative, is the person responsible for managing your estate after you are gone. You may name your executor in your will. Most people choose someone close to them whom they trust, such as their spouse, an adult child or a parent or sibling. If you have minor children, you will also want to name a guardian for them in your will. When preparing your will, your attorney will need the contact information for the people you have chosen as your executor or as guardian for your children, including their names, addresses and phone numbers.

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Do You Have to Be a Lawyer to Write a Will?

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How Are Wills Drawn Up?

A will can be drawn up by the testator, or person to whom the will belongs. It can also be drawn up by an attorney. In either case, consider carefully any property and debts you may have, and who you want to leave your property to when you die. Consulting an attorney can help even if you ultimately choose to draw up your will yourself.

How do I Create a Valid Will?

Will requirements are neither tricky nor confusing. If you follow the procedures mandated in your state of residence, you can create a valid will. Lawyers term wills "creatures of statute" because will requirements depend on state law. Absent a valid will, your property will pass according to intestate rules upon your death, generally to children and spouse or, in their absence, to siblings and parents. Your valid not only selects estate heirs but signals your choice for guardian of minor children as well as will executor.

How to Do Your Own Will

Few people enjoy contemplating death, which may explain why only two out of five Americans over the age of 45 have wills. But a will provides peace of mind. With a will, you choose your own heirs, whether they are family members, good friends or worthy associations. Without a will, the state distributes your property under the intestate laws to blood kin you may not like or even know. In a will, you name an executor for your estate and specify who is to care for your minor children should your spouse not survive you.

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