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.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

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.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
Guide to Writing a Will


Related articles

Is it Necessary to Probate a Last Will & Testament?

A will is a statement of your intentions for the division of your estate after your death. When circumstances demand an examination of the will by the legal authorities, a state probate court becomes involved. The probate court makes the final decision on the distribution of assets through the work of a court-appointed trustee, or the executor named in the will. Many wills and estates are not subject to the probate process, however.

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

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.

How to Change the Beneficiary of a 529 Plan

A 529 plan is either a pre-paid tuition plan or a savings plan maintained by a state or a school to help defray educational expenses. The laws under which these plans are created promote savings by offering federal or state tax benefits for contributions to the plan. Accounts are to be used to pay for college tuition or the cost of other training after high school for a designated beneficiary. Although anyone can be named as a beneficiary, they are typically children or grandchildren of the individuals who open the account. If the beneficiary does not attend college or receives a full scholarship, you may need to change the beneficiary of the plan. There are no tax consequences if you change the beneficiary to another member of the family.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help. Wills & Trusts

Related articles

How to Pass Financial Information to Heirs Upon Death

The period immediately following the death of a loved one is often emotionally overwhelming for family and friends. In ...

How to Transfer Property to an Irrevocable Trust in Pennsylvania

During the estate planning process, an individual known as the settlor may choose to establish and place select assets ...

What Do I Do if I Think My Wife Is Going to Divorce Me?

When you believe that a divorce is imminent, taking preparatory steps can help you protect your assets as well as ...

How to Fund a Living Trust

All the benefits of creating a living trust become void if you don’t fund it. Assets not placed in the trust will not ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED