Don’t Forget a Thing – Your Will Writing Checklist
Creating your will is one of the most important and beneficial things you can do for your estate and your loved ones. It will take the guess work and pressure off of your heirs and allow them to follow your wishes. Instead of important people in your life having to try and remember the occasional comment or conversation about certain assets or property, you are outlining everything clearly for your benefit and theirs.
Having a will is so important that we’ve made comprehensive, fillable will forms available to you; for free, along with all of the directions you’ll need to make them complete and legally binding.
Creating your will doesn’t have to be a challenge if you have the right information, documents, and guidance. By providing full will forms and directions, we hope to make it easier for you to complete your will today and feel confident that you’re assets are properly designated.
Follow our will writing checklist, in addition to the instructions provided with your free will form, to make sure you’re prepared and you’ve got all the information you’ll need to fill out and finalize your will.
- Make sure your will is typed, whether you use a template or not.
- Clearly identify who you are. Make sure to include descriptive, personal information such as your birth date, social security number, and address.
- Create a complete list of important assets. Be sure to list and describe any and all physical and liquid assets, and property. If you have special items that you are assigning in your will, it doesn’t hurt to also take a picture of them so your executor is clear on what you are leaving to whom.
For example, you may have multiple figurines, gold necklaces, or unique rings that you’d like to assign to different individuals. Not only do pictures serve to document the entirety of your physical possessions, regardless of who you leave them to, but they also serve to differentiate one item from another.
- Decide on, confirm, and name an executor. Your executor will oversee the distribution of your assets under your will. It’s the person you trust to see that your wishes are carried out. Once you have decided who you would like to act as the executor, confirm with that person that it’s a responsibility they are willing to take on.
It’s a good practice to also chose and confirm a backup executor in case your first choice is unavailable for any reason. As with other people and institutions identified in your will, be sure to list their name and address along with any additional identifying information you may have.
- Make sure the executor of your will is aware of the location of your will and will be able to easily access it.
- Decide and list who will inherit each asset – including people and institutions. Clearly naming and describing your beneficiaries is one of the most critical aspects of your will. List each beneficiary by name, with birth dates and social security number (if it’s a person), address, and their relationship to you. Before you cross this section off your list, make sure every name is spelled correctly and all of the information is complete and accurate.
- Update all primary and secondary beneficiaries for any and all contracted accounts. For any documented assets you name in your will – like life insurance, financial accounts, and investments – double check that you have the same information and beneficiaries on the contracts themselves as you’re describing in your will. In short, make sure all your accounts are updated to reflect your current beneficiary assignments and support the arrangements you are making in your will.Remember, if beneficiaries in your will are not the same as those identified/assigned in actual contracts; like a life policy, the court will honor the policy – not your will, so it is critical that you make sure your policy is updated as well!
- If you have minor children, assign a guardian who is agreeable to caring for them. Once you’ve identified the person you would like to raise your children in your absence, and in the event that their other parent can’t care for them, confirm with that individual; or individuals, that they are willing to commit to the responsibility.Just as with an executor, it’s a good idea to name and confirm a backup guardian as well. If the children will be going to different people or households, be sure to clearly outline each child and guardians’ identifying information so there is no question of your wishes for each individual child.
- Outline any special arrangements or requests for the care of your children. Also make sure that you’ve discussed this information with the proposed guardian and that they are willing to honor your wishes or any special needs your children may have. If there is any financial assistance being assigned to help provide for the children, make sure that information is detailed and any account information is updated and clearly described as well.
- Name a fiduciary for your children’s inherited assets. Decide if the person who will act as guardian for your children will also be their fiduciary. Regardless of who you select and whether it’s the same person that’s their guardian or not, outline your wishes clearly and describe the named individual(s) in detail with birth date, address, and relationship to you.
The legal age of a minor varies from state to state. Make sure you know what the cut-off age for a minor is in your particular state and make arrangements accordingly. Minor children cannot directly control inherited accounts or property. Instead, financial assets left directly to minors are controlled by the court, not your assigned guardian, which can be very expensive and inconvenient.
To avoid having the court control assets you leave to your minor children, you may want to consider setting up a trust that will protect and control assets you leave to your children until they are at an age you deem appropriate to inherit and control the assets themselves. With this option an assigned fiduciary; instead of the court, can see that your children are adequately cared for using funds from the trust until they are old enough to inherit full control of any remaining balance.
- If you have pets, name and confirm a caretaker and clarify your wishes about their care.
- Make copies of your will and save the original in a fire-rated safe or similarly secure place. See to it that your wishes are made clear. If you haven’t already, be sure to download your free will form today and start your estate planning by following the simple directions included.