What Documents Are Required for Will Preparation?

By Cindy Hill

The most effective estate planning starts with a thorough review of your family and financial circumstances. You can better determine your options for your estate disposition if you have accurate information in front of you regarding your property, accounts and other assets. Knowing what documents are required for will preparation can help get you through the process more swiftly and ensure that the results best reflect your intentions.

Real Estate Documents

Compile all deeds, real estate trust documents and deeds of life estates or leases to use during will preparation. The precise title language of these documents indicates whether the property is owned solely by you, jointly with someone else or as part of another entity such as a family real estate trust. You will need to know exactly what your legal ownership interest is in real estate in order to determine whether your real estate interest needs to be addressed in your will, or whether it is a type of joint ownership that will pass automatically to your co-owners upon your death. Real estate appraisals or recent tax bills will also help establish the value of your real property interests for purposes of assessing potential estate tax liability.

Account Statements

Your bank, retirement and investment account statements will help determine the value of your cash assets. The total value of your assets will tell you if you need to address potential estate tax consequences in your will preparation. You should also examine the documents that establish your financial accounts to see whether you named a beneficiary or joint owner of the account, and whether that account may pass automatically to the beneficiary, outside of your will. Also review documents for other financial assets like annuities or loans due to you.

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Business Documents

Your will can help to ensure that businesses you have helped form, or in which you have an ownership interest, continue to operate after your death. Assemble your business formation or management documents such as partnership agreements, trade name registrations or the documents filed to establish a corporation, prior to engaging in your will preparation. Review these documents carefully to establish which of your business interests can be bequeathed to others, which will pass automatically to survivors and which might benefit from a bequest to ensure successful continuance.

Family Documents

Prenuptial agreements, marriage certificates, divorce decrees and any already existing will and trust documents should be reviewed as you plan your estate, the American Bar Association advises. Adoption certificates and findings of disability for yourself or family members also affect your will preparation, helping shape your decision-making regarding establishment of potential trusts, naming guardians and creating special provisions for particular beneficiaries.

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How to Pass Financial Information to Heirs Upon Death

References

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Colorado Law: Death Without a Will

You may want to bypass the probate process when planning a Colorado estate. Methods of disposing of property at your death without going through the probate process usually require the assistance of an estate planning attorney. If you die without a will and without having made other provisions, the property in your estate will pass according to Colorado law.

Can You Transfer Debt Into a Living Trust?

A living trust is an agreement in which you transfer your assets into the ownership of the trust. You can retain control of those assets by naming yourself as trustee until your death, at which time a successor trustee takes over and distributes your assets to your beneficiaries. While you cannot transfer debt into a living trust, creditors might be able to reach the assets in the trust during your lifetime and after your death.

Should a 401(k) Be Put Into a Living Trust?

A living trust can be an important part of an estate plan, allowing assets to pass directly to named beneficiaries without having to go through a court-administered probate process. Many assets can be included in the trust, such as real estate, vehicles and bank accounts. But 401(k)s, IRAs and some other retirement accounts cannot be placed in a trust.

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