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Horizon Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog

Friday, November 8, 2019

Seven Things to Include in Your Will

There are some strange things that people include in their will. If you wanted to, you could leave a jar full of dirt to your niece. If you do, you might want to include a note that the dirt was collected when you went on a special trip together. Otherwise, someone might contest your will claiming that you were not competent when you signed the will as evidenced by the jar of dirt you left to your niece.

The point we are making is that your will is your statement of how you want your property to be distributed. You can be extremely detailed, or you can leave everything to one person. You can leave your estate to several people and let your heirs decide how to divide your property after your death. With that said, there are some things that a person should always include in his or her will. A California estate planning attorney can guide you through the process of creating a will to ensure the will meets your goals and all legal requirements for a valid will in California. 

Seven Things to Include in Your Will

In addition to any special bequeaths of property (like the jar of dirt), seven things that should be included in your will are:

1. Appointment of a Personal Representative

A personal representative administers your probate estate. This person is responsible for securing your property, identifying your heirs, paying your final bills, and distributing your property according to the terms of your will. In most cases, a successor personal representative is also named in the will in case your first choice for personal representative is unable to serve for any reason.

2. Guardian and Trustee for Minor Children

If you have minor children, your will should name a guardian for your children if they are minors at the time of your death. The will may also include a testamentary trust and a trustee. The trustee manages a minor child’s inheritance and uses the inheritance for the child until he or she reaches a specific age chosen by the maker the fill. When the child reaches the selected age, he or she receives the remainder of the inheritance.

3. Identify of Heirs

The will needs to identify your heirs. Your heirs are the individuals or entities that receive property from your estate.

4. Distribution of Property

As stated above, you decide how to divide your property upon your death. Your will contains detailed instructions for the distribution of your property between your heirs. 

5. Bond Requirements

A personal representative has a duty to act in the best interest of the estate and the heirs. You can require that the personal representative post a bond to ensure he or she executes the duties and responsibilities as required by law. Most individuals waive the bond requirements in their will.

6.  Provision for Digital Assets

Digital assets can be difficult to handle in an estate. You never want to include logins and passwords for digital accounts in your will. You do want to create a document for your representative containing this information. You also want to be sure to bequeath (give) this property to one or more heirs.

7.  Witnesses

The role of a witness at the signing of a will is to witness the person sign the will and ensure that the person was of sound mind and acting of his or her own free will. Having witnesses who can testify in court that you had the mental capacity to execute a will and you were not under any pressure by someone to include certain terms in the will can help defeat any actions to contest the will filed with the court. 

Contact a California Estate-Planning Attorney for More Information

Depending on your unique situation, there may be other items that you need to include in your will. There are also a slew of things you should not include in your will. Contact the experienced estate-planning attorneys at Horizon Law today to discuss your situation. Our California estate planning attorneys provide guidance and legal advice as you go through the process of developing an estate plan that meets your goals and needs.

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