Most people have at least a vague idea of where they want their assets to go after their death, but coming up with a formal document and knowing what other instructions should be included can prove overwhelming. Add in the differences in estate laws from state to state, and it makes sense to work with an estate lawyer to draw up your last will & testament. To prepare for your visit to have the document prepared, there are a few things you should think about and decide upon that should be included. This list will also help you decide if you need to make changes to an existing last will & testament.
- Personal belongings- Consider if you have belongings that you wish to go to specific people, a charity, or an organization. Items such as household furnishings, jewelry, your vehicle, a book collection or other hobby collection, and other such belongings could be earmarked for someone you know will appreciate them.
- Cash bequests- Someone doesn’t have to be a major beneficiary to receive some cash from your estate. You can leave specific cash amounts to whomever you desire.
- Financial assets- Choose someone to receive any stocks, bonds, bank accounts, or other financial holdings that you might have that you wish specific people to take over.
- Choose a residual beneficiary or beneficiaries- Once you have done specific bequests, you can choose one or more people to get whatever is remaining. This saves you from having to change your last will & testament every time your financial net worth or assets change. You state the people you wish, as well as the division percentages. Your attorney will alert you to any spousal rights in your state and other estate law requirements that must be adhered to.
- Choose alternative beneficiaries- Ideally, if there is a change due to birth, death, or divorce, you will have time to make changes to your last will & testament. However, you should name alternative beneficiaries in case that doesn’t happen. It is also a good idea to include verbiage that your children at the time the document is prepared and those who come along after the fact are automatically included. This saves you from having to make changes when another child is born.
- Choose an executor- Your estate lawyer can advise you on the suitability of an executor based on state requirements. Of those the court will allow, you’ll need to decide who you feel will best manage your estate according to the instructions in the last will & testament.
- Considerations regarding minor children- Your last will & testament can include a directive regarding a guardian for your minor children as well as someone to manage the property of the children.
At the office of Robert G. Spaugh, Attorney at Law in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, we recommend that everyone have a last will & testament in place. We can advise you on what you can and cannot put into this document and help you be sure not to leave out any important instructions. We can also go over a current document and assist with modifying it to reflect any changes that have occurred. Call today to schedule an appointment.