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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How to Address the Executor of an Estate in a Letter

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How to Make a Will by Yourself

If you do not have children or do not have many assets, you may wish to write your own will. Courts in most states will recognize a will you wrote yourself as long as your will meets all legal requirements. However, it is wise to consult an attorney for advice or to review your finished will. Also, if you have minor children, a great deal of assets or your estate is complicated in some way, you may wish to consult an attorney for help in writing your will.

How to Make My Own Will Free of Charge

Writing your own will is a process that does not need to cost money. If you have limited assets and straightforward child custody plans or no minor children, making your own will free of charge may be an option for you. If you have a complex financial portfolio or your children will require special care or financial arrangements, however, you may wish to speak to an experienced attorney in your state about the details of your will.

DIY for a Will and Testament

If your estate is small or you do not have minor children, you may decide to write your own will and testament. A DIY will and testament can be legal, as long as it meets the requirements for valid wills in your state. Consulting an attorney can help clarify the specific instructions in your state's laws for making a will.

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