Your will is a legal declaration of how you want your property distributed after your death. You must prepare before making your will, even if you are using an attorney to draft the document, as mistakes may result in omitted heirs, forgotten provisions and property for which you did not account.
Name All Heirs and Beneficiaries
Your heirs and beneficiaries -- persons who will receive property under your will -- should be listed and clearly identified during the will preparation process, particularly your current spouse and any children you have. Some states provide automatic shares of your estate to heirs who are left out of your will even if you did so on purpose. You may need to state in your will that you are omitting a particular heir under the laws in your state.
Asset and Property List
Listing all of your assets and real estate -- along with estimated values -- during will preparation helps you account for all of your property. Real estate you own, bank accounts, retirement plans and investments will all be a part of your estate. Some items, like rare collectibles, may have far more value at your time of death than when your will was made, so you should consider all your belongings during the will drafting process.
All your assets, property and personal items will be given to your will beneficiaries in accordance with your directions. Writing down the item, monetary amount or percentage of your estate you want to leave to each beneficiary while planning for your will avoids accidental slights or omissions. You may leave all your property to one person, like your spouse, or make specific gifts to a number of people. A charity, organization or religious order may also be a beneficiary under your will if you desire.
You may name legal guardians for any minor children you have in your will. List each child and the full name and address of the guardian you select, but talk to the person while you are still in the will-planning stages to make sure she is ready and willing to handle the responsibility. The laws in your state may prevail over your guardianship provision if you select a person who is not legally permitted to act as a guardian, like someone under the age of 18.
Name Your Executor
An executor is the person who will oversee your estate after you die. The executor pays your debts, accesses your assets and transfers items to beneficiaries. You should write down the full name and address of your executor while planning your will, but speak to the person before finalizing your will to make sure he understands the responsibilities involved.