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What to Include in a Will

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

Writing a will or a last will and testament is something no one can actually say they enjoy thinking about. Though, it is an unfortunate fact of life that everyone does eventually die. Wills take care of things in your absence after you pass away.  Having a last will and testament in place can assure your final wishes will be known to friends, family and loved ones and carried out as you wished after you leave this world.

An attorney can draw up a will or there are online sites that offer the same services. Depending on the size of a person’s personal property, real estate, if there is also business property along with personal property as well as various other factors can all affect the cost of fashioning this legally binding document.

These are several things to include as part of a will when considering people, places and things in your life and what will happen to them after you die.

1)      Name an executor or personal representative

With a personal will an executor or personal representative is named whose duty will be to make certain the wishes outlined in a will are carried out as specified. This person or representative is obligated to divide up the personal property, including money and bank accounts to distribute everything as the will directs.

Along with assigning one executor many wills will have a second executor or representative selected in the event the primary preference is not available for whatever reason.

2)      Who gets what

A will expressly details who or what organization will get what personal property of the deceased. Detailed info should be included. The details surround property that generally includes cash, personal property, gifts and even real estate. Some wills go into extremely detailed points depending on the property. For an example, a single pocket watch with personal meaning among hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of jewelry can be detailed while all other jewelry mentioned in the will is not detailed.

The persons or people who receive personal property are referred to as beneficiaries. Beneficiaries are as a rule relatives, such as parents or children, business associates, charities, organizations or friends.

Animals or pets are considered personal property according to the law and cannot be beneficiaries, but you can have a person or organization that acts on their behalf for their care or upkeep mentioned in your will. You can express how and where they live out their lives and with special mention of pets in a will.

3)      Alternate beneficiaries should be included in a will

One of the things that many people don’t consider is an event that takes place quite often. Beneficiaries are named in wills. However, often a beneficiary may not survive the person who creates the will. This can happen in the case of a child that dies before a parent or a charity that no longer exists after execution of a will. Therefore, naming alternate beneficiaries is an important consideration.

Many times wills are created once in a lifetime and rarely changed or altered. In the case of an unexpected death a will written several decades before hand could have a lot changed in 20 or 30 years when it comes to beneficiaries. Naming an alternate or substitute beneficiaries is a very well considered will.          

State what final wishes to carry out if the primary recipients of the will do not survive. For an example, if a spouse is an original beneficiary state the children should be secondary if the spouse does not survive. If the charity no longer exists, consider another similar charitable organization as the alternate.

4)      How to pay debts, taxes and expenses

A will should state how to pay final obligations of the deceased that include debts, expenses and taxes. Typically these are balances owed for things like funeral expenses, any estate and/or inheritance taxes or even hospital bills not covered by insurance.

Most wills have a source of money such as a bank account specifically created where money can be withdrawn to take care of these costs.

5)      Business versus personal assets

For anyone that has a personal business or company there should be instructions for how the business assets are handled separate from personal assets.

Business owners should be detail oriented in a will on how to divide the assets of the business. For an example, should the business be sold and the money earned from the sale of the business divided among several different beneficiaries or would you like the business to continue running under a different CEO or director?

Owning shares in a company is separate from owning a business and shares are considered a personal asset that can be left to someone along with personal property.

6)      How to handle debts owed you

Wills should specify how debts owed you should be handled after your death. State if money owed you should be forgiven, wrote off or continue to repay your estate or a beneficiary named in your will. You can even include how the interest is handled on the balance due to you.

7)      What to do about any pets you own

For anyone that owns pets a will can state how you would like these cared for if they survive you.  Pets are considered personal property and for any pet owner concerned with their pet going to a good home or someone caring for them can outline instructions for their care and maintenance in a will.

These are things to consider including in your will and how you want things handled. Having a will in place is a legal document that can be argued against in a court of law. Though, more times than not a will's instructions are followed and family and friends are grateful to know what you want after you leave this world.


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