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What should you include in a will?

Choosing to create a will is a very important decision. It’s one that requires thoughtful planning and careful execution. Acknowledging how you want your affairs handled in the event of your passing is not a pleasant task. But doing so keeps you in control of your own healthcare, ensures your loved ones are properly cared for and offers many other benefits.

What exactly is a will?

A will is a legal document that allows you, the testator, to determine who will oversee your estate after you die. The person you select is known as the executor, because they will execute your wishes as expressed in your will.

What do you want to include?

Assets—

When creating your will, one of the first things you need to do is take inventory of all your assets. This typically includes:

  • Owned property — houses, cars, other real estate
  • Accounts — bank, retirement, investment
  • Life insurance policy
  • Personal possessions — furniture, jewelry, art, family heirlooms, etc
  • Loans or debts owed

Please note: Certain retirement accounts and insurance policies are not covered by wills. It’s likely you were asked to name beneficiaries during the setup process but it’s still a good idea to double-check and make any necessary updates.

Children—

How your children are included in your will is going to vary based on their ages.

For minor children, you will need to elect a legal guardian who will care for them should you unexpectedly pass. This is arguably the most important decision you’ll make regarding your will. So vet them diligently and make for certain that they’d be up for the job.

If your children are over 18, you don’t need to name a legal guardian. At this point, you can include them however you want. Since they are no longer minors, they can legally accept any responsibility bestowed on them.

Healthcare

The best way to maintain control over your healthcare is by including an Advance Health Care Directive in your will. This “directive” lets your physician, family and friends know your preferences for end-of-life care, organ donation and other special instructions for treatment.

Deciding where things go

Once inventory has been taken, childcare and healthcare decisions have been made, it will be time to decide how your assets will be divided. Be explicit with your wishes and provide well-defined instructions to avoid any confusion. If you promised certain items to specific loved ones, make sure it’s clearly stated in your will. Don’t leave anything up for interpretation.

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