What Should Be Included In A Will?

One of the first steps regarding estate planning is understanding what should be included in a will. At Jordan & White, LLC, we believe in making this process clear and straightforward for our clients on the North Shore of Massachusetts. A will typically start with identifying the testator and a statement declaring the document as your will. It’s essential to be clear and precise here, leaving no room for doubt about the document’s purpose.

Designating Devisees

Designating devisees in your will is a crucial aspect of estate planning, as it directly addresses who will receive your assets after your passing. This process involves more than just naming individuals or organizations; it requires careful consideration and specificity to ensure your wishes are clearly understood and executed. Here’s a detailed look at the process:

  • Identifying Devisees: Devisees can be anyone you choose: family members, friends, charities, or other organizations. It’s essential to identify each devisee clearly, using their full names and, if possible, additional identifying information to avoid any confusion. For example, if you have two nephews with the same name, specifying their relationship to you or including their middle names can help distinguish between them.
  • Specific vs. Residual Bequests: You can make two main types of bequests in a will. Specific bequests involve leaving a particular item or fixed money to a devisee (e.g., “I leave my diamond ring to my niece, Jane Doe”). Residual bequests refer to the remainder of your estate after all debts, expenses, taxes, and specific bequests have been paid out (e.g., “I leave the rest of my estate to my son, John Doe”).
  • Conditional Bequests: Sometimes, you may leave assets to a devisee only if certain conditions are met. For instance, you could stipulate that a grandchild will only receive their inheritance when they reach a certain age or graduate from college. However, ensuring these conditions are reasonable and legally enforceable is essential.
  • Alternate Devisees: It’s wise to consider naming alternate devisees if your primary devisee predeceases you or cannot inherit. This helps ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes, even if circumstances change.
  • Charitable Donations: If you wish to leave a portion of your estate to a charity or organization, it’s essential to name the entity precisely and specify the amount or percentage of your estate you wish to donate. This can be a fixed sum, a specific asset, or a portion of the residual estate.
  • Trusts for Minors or Devisees with Special Needs: If any of your devisees are minors or have special needs, setting up a trust can be a beneficial way to manage their inheritance. A trust can specify how and when the assets will be distributed and appoint a trustee to manage the assets on behalf of the devisee.

Appointing an Personal Representative

Appointing an Personal Representative for your will is a decision that carries substantial responsibility and importance. The Personal Representative, also known as a personal representative, is pivotal in administrating your estate after your passing. Understanding the duties and qualities necessary for an effective Personal Representative is crucial for making an informed choice. Here’s a detailed look into the process of appointing an Personal Representative:

Role and Responsibilities of an Personal Representative

The Personal Representative of a will is responsible for carrying out your wishes as stated in your choice. Their duties typically include:

  1. Gathering and Protecting Assets: The Personal Representative locates and secures all estate assets.
  2. Paying Debts and Taxes: They are responsible for settling any outstanding debts and taxes the estate owes.
  3. Distributing Assets: The Personal Representative oversees the distribution of the estate’s assets to the devisees as per the will.
  4. Legal and Financial Management: They handle legal filings, manage estate accounts, and may need to sell or liquidate assets to settle debts or distribute inheritances.

Guardianship Decisions

If you have minor children, appointing a guardian in your will is a must. This person will care for your children if you and the other parent cannot. It’s a decision that requires careful thought, often accompanied by discussions with potential guardians to ensure they’re willing and able to take on this role.

Special Instructions

Your will can also include special instructions, such as your wishes for your funeral or how you want certain personal items to be handled. While these details might seem minor compared to financial assets, they can be significant to your loved ones and help ensure your wishes are respected.

Your Next Steps with Jordan & White, LLC

At Jordan & White, we are here to help you with every aspect of creating a will, ensuring it’s tailored to your needs and legally sound. Crafting a comprehensive estate plan is a significant step in protecting your legacy and your family’s future. Call us today at 978-744-2811 or contact us online for personalized assistance. Your estate planning attorneys are ready to guide you through this critical process.