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We often send out reminders about making sure you have a current will, so today we’re providing a quick list of five things you should consider when you make that will. Remember, your will is basically a list of your final wishes related to your financial assets and personal belongings.

  1. Name an Executor you trust. Many people feel obligated to name a close family member as Executor, but that may not be the right choice for you. If you don’t believe you have any relatives able (or willing) to take on this task per your instructions, you may choose an independent third party as Executor. Think carefully about appointing two or more to serve jointly – we’ve all been on a “committee” before, and some work well and some, not so much! Also select an alternate if your first choice is unable to serve.
  2. Choose a guardian for your minor children/trustee for adult dependents. Again, a relative may not be the best choice to care for your dependents. Consider the age and health of the person you name (for example, raising grandchildren might be a strain for your elderly mother), as well as their value system and current living situation. Also remember to make provisions to name a trustee if you are caring for an elderly parent who will need ongoing assistance in the event of your death and for whom you wish to leave assets to assist with that care.
  3. Be specific in how you want your assets distributed. While it’s easy to distribute cash, family heirlooms can cause some major fights among beneficiaries. List specific items of value and who you want to have them. One solution that may work for you is to allow each beneficiary to “claim” an heirloom or two while you are still alive, then add this list to your will. It may also help to communicate the list to beneficiaries ahead of time so they are not surprised. Land is another asset which is difficult to own jointly with multiple heirs who may disagree as to its continued use or sale.
  4. Note any exclusions in your will. Unfortunately, not everyone has an ideal family situation. If you have relatives that you absolutely do not want to receive any of your assets or be allowed to care for your children, include the fact you are intentionally making no provisions for such individual(s) in your will.
  5. Leave money to your favorite charity. You may wish to leave money or other assets to your favorite charity. Detail those wishes in your will. We do recommend, again, letting your family members know this ahead of time, and researching exactly how to properly name such charities in your estate planning document.

While we said there would be five things to include, there are a few others for you to consider. Along with your will, provide instructions, if any, for your memorial service and burial. Family members can be overwhelmed when a loved one dies. Including this information with your will allows them to honor your memory while not having to guess what you would have wanted. And, if you have an active online presence, consider what will happen to your digital assets.

Finally, make sure your loved ones know where your will is located and where (if needed) any keys are kept for safe deposit boxes, filing cabinets, etc. If you have an estate planning attorney, you may also want to provide that contact information. Feel free to contact our estate planning team if you have questions or need help with your will or estate plans.