First and foremost, creating a will and testament is a complex process that has serious implications for the distribution of your estate. This is a process that should be done with the help of an expert estate lawyer just to be sure. However, we wanted to provide some best practice tips for things to do and not do when it comes to creating this crucial document for your children and loved ones.
Last Will & Testament Best Practice: What You Need
The first and most important steps when it comes to creating your will involve naming your assets and the executor of your estate. Start by creating a list of your most valuable assets–house, cars, other items, etc–and then begin to discern where you would like to distribute these assets. Name an executor of your estate and ensure it is someone trustworthy: this person will hold a lot of power when it comes to the distribution of your estate so it’s not a decision to be made lightly.
You also want to include basic and seemingly obvious information: your name, address, and, most importantly, your beneficiaries (people receiving assets from you after you pass). For more information on estate planning, read an old blog post of ours: The Importance of Estate Planning and How to Get Started.
Last Will & Testament Best Practice: What NOT to Include
There are a long list of things you should avoid when making a will, and many of them stem from the items including instructions inherently. For example, you do not need to include retirement accounts of 401ks in your will because these inherently include beneficiaries already. In addition to this, property in a living trust and stocks or bonds held in beneficiary do not need to be listed for that same reason.
There are also certain stipulations regarding actions within your estate: do not dictate care over someone in your life with special needs in your will. Do not leave items or gifts to your pets as this will only complicate things for your executor and beneficiaries. As an official legal document, there can exist no conditions nor clauses involving illegal activities. Certain conditions on gifts like religion, marriage, or others can also not be included.
As mentioned earlier, this is a complex process that is best done under the careful guidance of an estate planning professional. For something as important as this, it would behoove you to work with an attorney just to ensure everything is perfectly aligned for after your passing. It may be a bit grim, but at the end of the day you have to view it as you putting in work to spread your legacy and ultimately help the ones you love.
Interested in creating a last will and testament or altering your existing document? Our team of probate and estate experts here at Markesbery & Richardson would be happy to help. For a free initial consultation, contact us here.