So, you’ve decided to establish your will? That is a great step towards peace of mind for your future and your loved ones! There are many things to consider when deciding what to include in your will, as it serves to secure your legacy and protect your family.
To help you prepare for a consultation with an attorney to discuss your legal documents, we have created this checklist for will planning. Below are the items your attorney will need to ensure you have a will that includes your wishes for your estate upon your passing.
Determine What is Included in Your Estate: Assets & Debts
Make a list of all of the assets and debts that are part of your estate. This will allow your attorney to advise you on the best way to leave your assets to your beneficiaries, whether through transfer on death designations or designations made specifically in your will. Having this information together will also allow your executor to have insight into your overall estate, making their job easier.
Following are some of the common assets and documents needed for will preparation:
- Bank accounts
- Retirement accounts
- Life insurance
- Real estate
- Jewelry or family heirlooms
- Personal property
Individuals Named in Your Will
There is an order of succession for which family members receive your assets upon your passing, dictated by state law. However, being proactive and creating a will allows you to designate beneficiaries. This means you get to choose which individuals receive which assets instead of the state.
For example, it is not unusual for assets to go directly to the spouse. However, many individuals who are part of a blended family prefer to designate which assets will go to their spouse and which assets will go to their children.
Don’t forget to designate contingent beneficiaries. This is important in case those who you originally intended to inherit your property pass away before you.
The executor for your will has an important role and should therefore be considered with great care. As outlined in the terms and conditions of the will, this individual will carry out your wishes and oversee the legal administration process. They will take care of distributing your assets to your beneficiaries and paying any estate taxes.
Be sure to discuss this role with the individual you choose. There are no legal requirements or special training needed for someone to be an executor, but it will be a good idea for them to consult an attorney when the time comes.
If you have children, designating a guardian for them in your will is your opportunity to determine who will be responsible for their upbringing should you and their other parent pass away before they reach adulthood.
Should you prefer to choose an individual separate from your children’s guardian to manage the property they inherit from your estate, you can select a trustee to take on this responsibility until the children reach the appropriate age and maturity to manage it themselves.
Establish Your Will
With all of the necessary information gathered together, it is time to schedule a consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney. They will advise you and answer your questions regarding any of the above information and have more insight into other considerations regarding your estate and individuals named in your will.
Once your last will and testament form is created, you will need to sign it in front of witnesses and a notary. This is required by law to verify that you are of sound mind when signing the document.
After your will is signed and you receive it along with any other estate planning documents from your attorney, it is important to determine a secure place to keep them. This will prevent them from getting lost or damaged. Be sure to inform your executor and any other trusted individuals where you are storing your documents so that they can locate them upon your passing.
Your Arizona Estate Planning Attorney
This estate planning checklist should serve as a guide for considering your wishes regarding your assets and loved ones upon your passing. Although estate planning can be a difficult process, as no one likes to consider their passing, your loved ones will thank you for pre-planning.
Sue is an Arizona attorney with over 30 years of experience. Contact her law firm today to schedule your free estate planning consultation!