Preparing your last will and testament can seem daunting. There are so many decisions to make and, depending on the size of your estate, it could require a lot of documentation. Before meeting with your attorney, there are a few things you need to consider so that you can be prepared with the verification the lawyer will need to complete your will.
First and foremost, you have to list the personal property that you wish to go to your beneficiaries. This list could be as simple as bank accounts and real estate, or it could involve trusts, investments, multiple properties and more. For each asset, you’ll need to provide receipts, statements, appraisals, titles or other forms of proof that the assets are yours to own. Some of the most common asset types are:
- Art inventory with appraisals or receipts
- Business or partnership contracts
- Insurance policies
- Real estate deeds
- Statements for cash accounts
- Statements or certificates for stocks, bonds, retirement accounts and other investments
- Vehicle titles
If you are married, divorced or widowed, bring marriage, divorce or death certificates.
During probate, the court will settle any outstanding debts before distributing the assets. You’ll need to provide loan documents for vehicles, motor homes, boats, jet skis, etc. If you own a home, the attorney will need to see mortgage statements. In the event of your death, the court will require credit card information to settle the balances. Student loans must also be paid, so be ready to provide documentation for those, as well.
When naming beneficiaries, you need to make sure you have the following:
- Full names
- Birth certificates or adoption papers for any minor children
- Complete addresses and phone numbers
- Dates of birth
- Social Security numbers
You’ll need to think about how you want your estate distributed. For instance, if you have two children, do they each get 50%? If so, do they get it upon your death, or will it be held in trust until they reach a determined age?
If you have minor children, you’ll need to name a guardian or trustee for them in case they are still underage at the time of your death. If this is not the other parent, make sure you have an agreement from the named guardian that they are willing and able to take the responsibility if necessary. Once you have agreed, you’ll need to provide their name and contact information.