What Goes Into a Will?

Nov 4, 2021
Estate Planning

Have you made your last will and testament yet? A recent AARP survey found that 40% of Americans over age 45 don’t have one. If you’re one of them, or even if you’re younger than 45, you really should consider making a will. Why?

For starters, if you die unexpectedly, such as in a car crash or natural disaster, without having made your will, your state deems you to have died intestate. The consequences of that are that your state’s intestacy laws will determine who inherits your property and in what proportions or amounts. This distribution may not, and likely won’t, have anything to do with how you would have preferred to pass your property at your death. But without a will, your state has no idea what your wishes were.

What You Can Put in Your Will

Most people think that their will contains only a list of their assets and the people who they want to inherit those assets. While this is true, it’s only part of the truth. For instance, not only can you parcel out most of your property in your will, but you can also name the person, called your executor, who you want to oversee the distribution of your property after your death.

In addition, you can name the person who you want to become the guardian of your minor children if you and your spouse die together in an accident. This may be the most important reason why younger people should make wills, even if they haven’t accumulated a great deal of property yet.

Just because you don’t have lots of property doesn’t mean that the property you do have is worthless. Some of it, such as your grandmother’s engagement ring or your special set of tools, has great sentimental value. Even if you’ve promised the ring to your daughter and the tools to your son, such verbal promises are not enforceable. Your will needs to state these specific distributions.

What You Can’t Put in Your Will

Keep in mind, however, that you can’t pass everything you own by will. Examples of such property include the following:

  • Anything you own jointly with someone else, such as bank accounts or real property
  • Proceeds of life insurance policies that have a beneficiary designation
  • Proceeds of retirement accounts that have a beneficiary designation
  • Any property you own solely, but on which you’ve placed a payable on death or transfer on death designation

Property of this nature will pass directly to the designated person.

Where to Go For Help

All in all, your will is one of your most important legal documents. As such, it must be properly drafted, signed and witnessed. Each state has its own laws regarding what makes a will legally enforceable. Don’t make the mistake of simply sitting down and handwriting or typing what you think is proper. You may be setting your heirs up for significant problems. Instead, your wisest course of action is to seek the legal advice you need from a trusted source such as AmeriEstate Legal Plan.

Our team of highly-skilled, independent attorneys, estate advisors and notaries have helped over 40,000 families not only make their wills, but also establish estate plans that achieve their current and future financial goals. Contact us today. We’d be more than happy to help you, too.