Will Preparation Checklist

By Kristin Shea

Before preparing your will, gather pertinent information and documentation. If you have all the necessary information written down, you will better be able to organize and prepare a will that expresses your intent. The more prepared you are, the smoother the process of preparing this important document will be.

Personal Information

Organize your basic personal information, including your full name, marital status, and date and place of birth. If married, provide your marriage date and place, and your spouse’s date and place of birth. If you or your spouse is divorced, review contracts or judgments made with ex-spouses that can affect distribution of your assets. List names and ages of all children, including those related by adoption or marriage.

Assets

Create a summary of your assets, including real estate, personal items and intangible assets such as stocks. Include information about the addresses, location, ownership interests and mortgages on all real property you own. Make sure you provide up-to-date information about bank account numbers and locations. By organizing a list of all of your personal assets, especially those with monetary or sentimental value, you can more clearly express your intended distribution. When deciding on distribution, remember that your assets may increase or decrease in value.

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Debts

List all of your obligations to your creditors, including mortgages, loans and promissory notes. As with your assets, these debts may change over time. You may satisfy some debts or the amount owed may fluctuate, but provide as clear a picture of your financial obligations as you can.

Beneficiaries

Make finding your beneficiaries as easy as possible by providing relevant information such as names, dates of birth, residences and identifying relationships. If you want specific beneficiaries to receive special gifts because of financial or sentimental reasons, specify your wishes in your will. You can also divide your estate in terms of percentages.

Executors

An executor collects and distributes your assets, pays your expenses and estate tax and otherwise wraps up your affairs. The job is not always easy, so choose somebody who can handle the task. Because your will may not be executed for a long while, choose a substitute executor in case your principal executor predeceases you or becomes otherwise unable to perform the duties.

Guardians

If you have minor children, make a clear plan regarding who will care for them, including special instructions and financial arrangements. Include information in your will about life insurance policies and trusts established to provide for your dependents. Make sure that the guardian you choose is willing to accept the responsibility and will raise your children in the manner that you desire. Protect your pets by making solid arrangements for their care in your will, including naming a guardian.

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Things to Think About When Writing a Will

References

Related articles

Guide to Writing a Will

Writing a will is a serious undertaking that can settle your financial and property affairs for your spouse, children and grandchildren, as well as give you peace of mind and confidence that your estate will be administered as you have intended. A review of your present financial assets and consideration of your wishes for your children or grandchildren can help guide you to writing a will.

A Standard Last Will & Testament

Although state laws vary on the requirements for a last will and testament, all wills contain the same basic sections for paying debts and taxes, distributing assets and arranging care for your children. Review your state’s statutes to be sure you have satisfied your state’s requirements for a legal will. All situations are different, so be sure to tailor the language to address your unique family and financial circumstances.

How to Make a Will Without a Lawyer

A lawyer is helpful in the will creation process because you can be confident that your will has been drafted according to your state’s laws. An attorney’s help is not essential, however. If you feel confident that you can navigate your state’s laws and express your wishes on paper in a clear and unambiguous way, you can make your own will. Each state has different formal requirements, but you may opt to comply with the laws of every state to help ensure that your will is valid.

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