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.

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.

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.

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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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Role of Will Executor

The executor of a will, also known as the personal representative, is the person who will carry out the instructions in your will when you die, according to FindLaw. The executor is responsible for wrapping up the affairs of your estate, including filing the will with the probate court, paying any debts, distributing the estate's assets and defending the validity of your will if it is challenged, according to FindLaw.

Checklist for Creating a Last Will & Testament

While most states will not allow you to disinherit a spouse and certain legal requirements vary depending on where you live, for the most part the disposition of your property when you die is entirely up to you if you make a will. You should always check with an attorney, however, to make sure that your will complies with all the laws in your state.

How to Prepare a Will

A will is a document in which a person describes the management and distribution of her estate after her death. Per common law, a "will" disposed of real property while a "testament" disposed of personal property, but today the courts use the terms interchangeably. No state requires a will, but persons dying without wills cede to the state all decisions about estate distribution. With a will, a testator makes her own inheritance decisions, selects an appropriate executor for her estate, and names a guardian to raise her minor children in the event of her death.

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