Creating a last will and testament is an essential part of your financial and estate planning. And it’s crucial that you’re familiar with the important components of a will to ensure your final wishes are carried out exactly as you intended. Of course, you should always have your attorney or another qualified party review your will to ensure it was created properly and that it is clear and fully enforceable.
Remember also that there are a number of times over the course of your life when you should review and update your will.
Every adult age 18 and up should have a last will and testament. Here’s a quick look at the most important components of a will to help you better understand this essential planning document.
Important Components of a Will
- Heading or preamble – This identifies you (the testator) by name, your address, your marriage status, and your children.
- Revocation of prior wills – If you have created previous wills, it is a best practice to state that the new one revokes all others. However, the most recent version of a will is typically considered the valid one.
- Testator – You are the testator in your will. A testator must be at least 18 years old, of sound mind, and creating the document voluntarily and without undue influence.
- Executor and their powers – Identify the person responsible for carrying out your final wishes and overseeing your estate. Explicitly list the powers you are giving them.
- Guardianship of dependents – Name the person who becomes responsible for your minor children or other dependents.
- Payment of debts and taxes – Specify which of your assets will be used to settle your remaining debts and tax liabilities.
- Disposition of assets – Spell out which people and/or organizations are to receive all your assets, including cash, your home, real estate holdings, vehicle, investment accounts, jewelry, artwork, furniture, clothing, and other items of value.
- Signatures – The testator must sign the will, as must two witnesses. It is also prudent to have it notarized to prevent potential complications.