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Information Needed to Make a Will

In order to make your will you are going to need to know your:

(1) Beneficiaries and Heirs. The names of the members of your family, friends, and charities you want to leave property too.

(2) Property. What property you own, what debt you have, where the property is located, and who is on the title.

(3) Bequests. The names of who will be receiving what pieces of property, and who you would like to receive the property if they do not outlive you.

(4) Residuary Beneficiary. This is the person who will receive any items not specifically given away in the will.

Names of Interested Parties

You are going to want to know as much as possible about the people or organizations who you are going to give property or whom might expect to receive property under the will. A good way to start is to make a list of the following:

(1) Name of current or former spouse(s). Date and place of divorce or separation from spouse

(2) Names and birth dates of all your children, whether or not they are still living

(3) Names of parents, whether or not they are still living

(4) Names of brothers and sisters, whether or not they are still living

(5) Alternate Family Situation - if you have a companion or lover, their name.

(6) Do you have an agreement or contract with that person about the ownership or disposition of your property? If yes, you will need a copy of the agreement.

Your Property

Not all of your property can be given away in your will. Some property is distributed differently because it is jointly owned or governed by a contract. Examples of this type of property are life insurance policies, jointly owned property, bank accounts, and some retirement benefits. Read more about what you can give away in your will here.

Once you know what you can give away in your will, you are going to need to list all of your assets, including real estate, interest in a business or professional practice, bank accounts, stocks or bonds, cars, jewelry, clothing, artwork, furniture, etc. it is helpful to number these items when you make your list.

Your Beneficiaries

You may leave all your property to one or more persons and/or charities, or leave particular pieces of property or specific amounts of money to specific people.

Your "first choice" is called the intended beneficiary and your "second choice" is called the successor or contingent beneficiary. Even if you are going to give all of your property to one person, do no forget to list a second person or charity to your items.

If you want to leave property to a minor, you are also going to need name a custodian of the property until the child reaches the age of 18. The custodian will manage the property for the child is able to legally own the property as an adult.

If you are giving away a piece of property that is subject to a mortgage, lien, or loan, you will want to decide if you are giving away the property with the debt, or if you want to use some other portion of your estate to pay the debt.

Residuary Beneficiary

This is a person or charity who receives any of your money or property not specifically distributed in your will, which you forgot to include in your will, or which you acquire after you have executed the will. This person also receives gifts to others which fail because the named beneficiary or beneficiaries die before you.

Tip: It is not uncommon for the person listed as your residuary beneficiary to end up with a large portion of your estate. For this reason, people often list the person they are giving most of their estate to as the residuary beneficiary.

Your Executor

An executor is the person who will be responsible for distributing your property, paying your debts and managing your property during the probate of your estate. You will need to name an Executor and an Alternate Executor. This is an important issue, so consider reading our Chosing an Executor section.

Burial or Cremation Instructions

You are going to want to consider and decide on the following:

(1) Burial or cremation?

(2) Funeral, memorial service, or neither?

(3) Special instructions - Do you want your Executor to publish an obituary?

(4) Do you have any special instructions for the obituary?

Other Questions

You might have some remaining questions about your will. Take some time to brainstorm these questions and keep track of them so you can feel confident your will is accurately expressing your wishes. Although it is common to update or change your will, it is best to minimize the number of wills and updates wills you have in order to avoid cost and confusion.

summerall law
Summerall Law, P.C. - Oakland Estate Planning Attorney
Located at 3873 Piedmont Avenue, Suite 8,
Oakland, CA 94611
Phone: (415) 944-9406
Local Phone: (415) 944-9406

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

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