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Breaking Down the Different Parts of a Will

April 2, 2024.

Breaking Down the Parts of a Will

A Will has several different parts. Here is the breakdown:

  1. The title– Also known as the preamble, this must be written at the top of the document. It can be simply written as “Last Will and Testament of (your name).”
  2. Name of testator – You, the creator of the Will, must write your full legal name in the title as described above.
  3. Revocation of prior Wills– If you are writing a new Will, you must include a statement revoking all previous Wills and codicils.
  4. Statement of family – Include the names of your spouse and children.
  5. Declaration – This is a statement including your name and address, declaring you are of legal age and sound mind, and that this is your Last Will and Testament. You must also write that you are not under duress or being influenced in creating the Will.
  6. Appoint executor– Name the executor (also known as the personal representative) who you want to be responsible for settling your estate.
  7. Name guardian for minor children– If you have minor children, you can appoint a guardian to care for them if something happens to you. The legal care of minor children automatically passes to the surviving spouse if they are deemed competent and there are no legal issues.
  8. Bequeathing special gifts– These are items of real value – monetary or sentimental – that you want a particular loved one or a favorite charity to have upon your passing. It could be a stock, specific cash amounts, a car, a vacation home, or an heirloom. Name any specific assets you want to bequeath and carefully describe each. Examples: “I hereby bequeath my mother’s wedding ring to my daughter, Sue.” Or, “I hereby bequeath my Microsoft stock to the American Red Cross.” If you have a pet, you can name them in your Will along with the person you want to care for it if you pass away. However, pets are considered to be property, and therefore you cannot name them as a beneficiary.
  9. Residuary clause– This is a statement in your Will that basically covers the bulk of your assets that may be left when all the estate’s bills have been paid, and assets bequeathed. Also, this would cover any obscure asset you may have forgotten about when creating your Will. You can simply state that any remaining assets can be left to a certain beneficiary, split among a class of beneficiaries, or instruct the executor to decide how to distribute these assets.
  10. Name beneficiaries– List each beneficiary and beside each name, write the asset you want them to receive and include instructions as to how and when the executor should transfer them. As an example, if you are leaving cash to a son or daughter, you could instruct that the money should be transferred when they reach a certain age or complete college.
  11. Special provisions– Since minor children cannot inherit assets until they turn 18, you can write a provision in the Will to create a Trust for your minor children. You can include property or cash in this Trust and instruct that the minor children are the beneficiaries when they reach legal age.
  12. Signature– You must sign your legal name to make the document valid.
  13. Witnesses’ signatures– Most states require at least two witnesses when you sign the Will. They must sign the document after witnessing your signature.
  14. Notary seal– It is strongly recommended to have your Will notarized by a notary public. This helps prove the validity of the Will and may speed up the probate process. You can also include with the Will a self-proving affidavit which affirms your signature and the signature of the witnesses.

 

You should review your Will periodically and update it if you have any life changes such as marriage, the birth of a child, a divorce, acquiring or selling assets, or death of a beneficiary or executor.

 

What NOT to Include in a Will and Why

There are few assets you should not list in your Will:

  • Digital assets– Social media accounts like your email, Facebook, etc. should not be included because you do not own them. Some social media companies have digital legacy provisions where a legacy contact you name can access your content. Other digital assets are your pictures and videos in cloud storage accounts like Dropbox or iCloud, and websites.
  • Investment or financial accounts– Proceeds in checking/savings, accounts, 401(k)s, stocks, and bonds with transfer on death designations because these will automatically transfer to the named beneficiaries upon your passing.
  • Cryptocurrency/NFTs– Keeping in mind that a Will becomes a public document when you pass away, and since the only way crypto like Bitcoin and NFTs can be accessed is with a private key – a password – you don’t want that access code out in the world for everyone to see. When writing your asset list, mention you are leaving your cryptocurrency to your named beneficiary and notate you have a digital asset list document with access info. That document stays private.
  • Assets in a Trust– A trust does not go through probate. So, any asset in a Trust typically transfers directly to the named beneficiary according to the specific terms in the trust when you pass away.
  • Usernames/passwords/account numbers– These should be listed in a separate document that does not go through the public probate process. As with the crypto, include a statement in your Will that all account access information is on a digital asset list.
  • Out-of-state/foreign assets – It may be best to create separate Wills for assets you own in another state or country, since laws regarding Wills vary state-to-state and in foreign lands.
  • Jointly-owned assets– Any property or accounts that you own jointly with a spouse will pass to the surviving owner, negating the need to include these in the Will.

 

Securely Store Your Will

Once your Will is created, you should store it in a secure, accessible place.

 

Have Questions?  Contact Us!

 

References

Gentreo.  “Breaking Down the Different Parts of a Will”.  Breaking Down the Different Parts of a Will – Gentreo.  April 2, 2024.

 

The information in this article is general in nature and for informational purposes only.  None of this information is intended to be personalized (and tailored to an individual’s unique circumstances) and should never be construed as specific tax, legal or financial recommendations.  Before making any financial decisions, you are strongly encouraged to first consult with a qualified financial professional.

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The information in this article was produced on a prior date and therefore may not be current, especially in relation to recent changes in laws, regulations or financial conditions.

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