Estate PlanningHardesty Law Blog

What to Include In a Will: 8 Key Elements

By October 21, 2018 No Comments
What to include in a will

As Cam’Ron said in the classic film, Paid In Full, “People die every day.” In fact, 151,600 people die every day on this planet, so you could even argue he was understating the issue.

To prepare for your inevitable passing, you should definitely draw up a last will and testament, especially if you’re going to be leaving many worldly possessions behind. Otherwise, they might end up in the wrong hands, and it’ll be a huge headache for your living relatives. In this article, we’ll tell you what to include in a will so that you’ve got all your bases covered.

  1. Divide Personal Assets

Your personal assets, when it comes to wills, can be defined as anything that you own that isn’t “real property” (which we’ll get to after this). A car, for example, is a personal asset. So are smaller things like clothes, jewelry, furniture, liquid cash, and so forth.

To make sure that your will is bullet-proof, you have to make sure that your assets are described with enough specificity as to which assets you want to be distributed to which beneficiary to avoid confusion. If your will is too vague, your executor will have trouble determining what goes where. Then, the divvying up of your estate could turn into an all-out interfamily brawl. No one wants that.

  1. Divvy Up Real Property

Real property” is a term that defines land, including physical buildings and homes, and mineral interests. Because these assets are worth a lot more, there are lot more hoops you need to jump through to transfer the ownership from a friend or relative. It can still be done, however. Your lawyer might just advise you to place these assets in a trust first.

  1. Choose an Executor

An executor is someone that will carry out the directives you’ve placed in your will. They’ll be the person meeting with your friends and family after you pass so that they can divvy up your possessions.

The person you select for this task should know that they’re being selected and should be competent enough to handle the task. You don’t want to pick someone by surprise and you don’t want to pick someone that doesn’t want to do the job.

  1. Cancel Debts Others Owe You

A charitable thing you can do before you die is cancel the debts the living owe you by stipulating that in your will. Normally, you’d think that your death would negate those debts automatically, but this isn’t actually the case.

Oftentimes, the debt becomes owed to the person or people that inherited your estate. So if you want the debts people owed you to simply become water under the bridge, you have to say so in your will. It’s a bit silly, but our legal system has a ton of strange quirks.

  1. Choose a Caretaker for Pets

If you have pets you’ll be leaving behind, you’ll also have to stipulate who you want them to go to. Like with your children, pets typically go to your spouse or next-of-kin unless otherwise specified.

If you know that your spouse or closest relative isn’t up for the task because they hate animals, have allergies, or you think that their presence will only prove heartbreaking for them, you may want to send them off to someone else. As with choosing an executor, you want to make sure the person you’re picking for this knows ahead of time what they’re signing up for. You may also want to designate a portion of your estate to go towards the care of your pets, especially if the pets have expensive needs.

If it comes as a surprise to someone, they might just sell your pets or give them away.

  1. Provide Instructions on How to Manage Property

We’ve already covered that you should specify who you want your real property to go to, but you may also want to include instructions on how to take care of the property you’re leaving behind.

For example, you can provide a list of people or companies that can or do take care of your property, like cleaning services, landscapers, pest inspectors, and more. You can also specify things like when and how much to water your plants, clean the pool, and so on and so forth. Or you can specify that you want your assets sold and the proceeds distributed.

Now That You Know What to Include In a Will…

It’s time to actually get started writing the document! You want to make sure you worth with a well-qualified lawyer in writing your will so that the document iron-clad and doesn’t have any obvious loopholes. Knowing what to include in a will is useless if the language of the document isn’t specific enough.

Once it’s written, you’ll want to make sure your will is stored in a safe place so that it can’t be lost or tampered with. If you need help drafting up a will, be sure to contact us. We’re professional lawyers with years of expertise in estate law.