According to a recent Gallup poll, only 46% of Americans currently have a will. We all are familiar with the concept of a will, but most people aren’t sure what exactly is included in the paperwork. This quick and easy guide explains seven essential parts of a will.
Every legal document is going to need to specify the party or parties that are involved. For a will there are some other personal details that need to be included, such as:
- The person’s name
- The county of residence
- Marital status – single, married, divorced, common law or widowed
- Living children, including adopted and stepchildren
Being able to make funeral wishes known is one of the top reasons people create a will. Every person should have a say in how their body is disposed and the type of funeral services that honor their life. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case for many people who die without a will. When that happens the person’s spouse or next of kin decides on the funeral arrangements.
If funeral arrangements have been prearranged with a funeral home that should be noted as well. Any receipts for prepayment of services also needs to be included.
This is the part of a will most people are familiar with, especially if they expect to inherit anything. The assets portion will provide information about the individual’s assets. Anything of value can be specified as an asset, including:
- Business ownership
- Life insurance policy
All debts should also be noted along with how those debts should be paid after the person’s death. Don’t forget about unpaid taxes. It’s a debt that many people forget to include and could be thousands of dollars. Funeral services are another debt that will need to be paid by the estate if they weren’t prepaid in advance.
Once all of the assets and debts have been outlined the benefactors will need to be named. Benefactors are anyone that receives an asset. The will needs to specify what asset each benefactor gets and how assets will be dispersed. This part of the will may also include special instructions regarding what benefactors must do to receive their inheritance.
Who is going to make sure your will is carried out and that you get the funeral arrangements you wanted? Those duties are taken on by the executor. The will should name an executor or co-executors. You could also choose to name an executor and a backup executor in case the first is unable or unwilling to carry out the will.
The will is not going to be considered legally binding unless it’s signed by the person creating the will. Signing the will in front of a notary may be a requirement, and if it’s not it’s still a good idea because it adds legitimacy. What are you signing your name to? Signing signifies that the document is meant to serve as your will.
It’s important to note that the legalities of a will depend on the state. And while you don’t have to have a lawyer draw up a will, hiring a legal professional is a good investment.