What to Include in Your Will
None of us enjoys thinking of our eventual death, but sometimes it’s important to take some time to do so. You want to do all you can while you’re living to make things as easy as possible for your loved ones when you pass. Spending some time creating a will is an important part of that.
Putting a will together isn’t just for the sick or dying – if you have money or other valuable assets and people in your life that you love, it’s probably worth sitting down and getting it done. While you can easily find websites that help you create a will on your own, you may benefit from meeting with a lawyer to better understand all the legal implications of your choices and make sure you don’t forget anything.
When you do create your will, here’s what you need to be sure and cover.
To start, you’ll need to include all the basic, useful identifying information like:
- Your name, address, and phone number
- The names, addresses, and phone numbers of your immediate family
- The contact information for any other beneficiaries or executors included in the will.
- The name and contact information for your attorney (if relevant)
Next, you’ll need to identify and include all of the financial assets you have to your name. This could potentially include:
- Bank accounts
- Credit cards
- Retirement funds
- Property (except for any property that’s jointly owned, that will go automatically to the other owner)
- Business interests (e.g. if you own a business, have a stake in one, or own something like a valuable domain name or social media account).
- Any safety deposit boxes you have
Some of your financial assets, such as retirement accounts and life insurance, may have beneficiaries already established for them. When this is the case, including them in your will is unnecessary. Whoever you’ve previously named as the beneficiary will receive the funds.
Now you want to name your beneficiaries and which assets you want bequeathed to each. You probably already have some idea in mind of who will be on this list. The usual suspects are spouses, children, other family members, churches, and charities. Choose secondary beneficiaries for everything as well, in case the first beneficiary you name passes before you.
If you have children under the age of 18, choose who you would like to become their legal guardian if you pass. If their other parent is alive and fit to care for them, then you’re covered, but having a backup listed in case you both pass is important. Don’t take a friend unawares – talk to whomever you choose to make sure they’re willing to take on the responsibility and know what to expect in the case of your death.
Somebody has to do the business of carrying out everything expressed in the will and helping tie up any unfinished business you left behind. You can hire somebody to be the executor, but many people choose relatives and friends to play this role. This should be somebody whose judgment you trust. But keep in mind that they’ll be faced with extra work and responsibilities at the time of your death. A spouse may be your automatic go-to (and for many people is the best choice), but someone overwhelmed with grief may not want to deal with the work of being executor at that time.
If you have any additional estate documents, like a power of attorney or living will, you should include those in your will as well. Some people also choose to make all their funeral plans in advance, to make sure they receive the funeral they want and cross one more thing off the list for loved ones to worry about. If you go this route, include the necessary details in your will so your family knows to carry out the plans you’ve already made.
Working on a will can feel like a very technical, dry process considering what you’re really dealing with. But wills play an important role in how we handle death, and knowing you have yours taken care of can provide some comfort in knowing that your loved ones will have an easier time when that difficult day comes.