Preparing to Make a Will

There are helpful and required terms and provisions that should be included in a will. This article addresses the most fundamental elements of a well drafted will which can help you prepare for your first meeting with an estate planning attorney.

The first essential element of a well-crafted will is your opening section, commonly referred to as the “Will Declaration”. It is here where you identified yourself and declare the document as your will and your intent to revoke any and all prior wills. The second part of the will declaration describes your marital status and your family relationships, including children.

The next essential element to be addressed concerns the naming of the person who will be in charge of carrying out your post-death legal matters, including such things as your burial, discharge of debts and other tax and financial obligations, and distribution of any remaining assets. For Fort Wayne, Indiana residents, as well as for residents of other states, this person may be known as your “executor” (if male) or “executrix” (if female). In modern legal terminology, this person is referred to as your “personal representative”. You may also identify a back-up personal representative if your first named representative is unwilling or unable to act in this capacity.

A good will documents your decision as to whether your personal representative must post a bond as a type of insurance designed to cover a loss of your estate’s assets due to any negligence of the representative. You may determine that such a bond is not necessary, but your attorney can assist you in making such a determination.

A third essential element of a will covers the distribution of your property. A will can document the treatment of both tangible and intangible assets. Tangible assets include such things as household goods, collectibles and other keepsakes. You may designate that specific tangible assets be distributed to an individual person or allow for a group of people to selectively choose tangible items by a predetermined process. Intangible items, such as bank and brokerage accounts, as well as real estate, are often referred to as the estate’s “residue”. These residue assets are often liquidated and distributed to beneficiaries in the proportions that you designate. Your will must also allow for the personal representative to sell assets in order to pay necessary debts and taxes.

The next important element of your will allows your personal representative to act without court order to administer the estate. For example, this power may involve selling, leasing, and assigning the estate property and managing investments. This activity is sometimes referred to as “unsupervised administration” and allows for timelier and less expensive execution and completion of your final affairs.

Finally, you and your witnesses must sign the will to make it legally valid. The number of witnesses required is established by the laws of the state of your citizenship at the time you sign the will. You should always consult with a knowledgeable estate attorney about this and all other pertinent matters related to drafting a will.