While you may already know that you need a will, you may not know everything that you should include in the document to make it both comprehensive and effective. Below, the Glen Allen estate planning attorneys of Taylor, Taylor & Taylor, Inc. explain five things that should be included in every will.
Generally, the testator (person writing the Will) must be over the age of 18 and legally competent to handle their own affairs. In Virginia, to be considered a valid will, it must be in writing and signed voluntarily by the testator in front to two witnesses, who are not also beneficiaries. A self-proving affidavit is recommended. There are exceptions to some of these requirements for holographic wills.
Declare the Document Your “Last Will and Testament”
First, you should ensure that the will expressly states that the document is your “last will and testament,” so that family members or legal representatives who read the document after your passing clearly understand that the document is your will and should be carried out as such. This indicates your testamentary intent.
Name an Executor
Your will should also name an executor or co-executors to carry out your will and manage your estate. While people commonly name a close family member to serve as an executor, you should choose someone that you trust to manage your affairs after your passing. This might include a close friend or your attorney or financial adviser. Choosing a trusted friend or adviser instead of a family member might be useful if you are concerned about family members getting into conflicts over your will and estate, since it avoids putting one of them in the center of that conflict.
Additionally, you should also name an alternate or successor executor in the event your first choice of executor declines to serve or cannot serve due their own death or incapacity.
Specify How Your Assets Are to Be Distributed
You should make sure that your will clearly explains how all your assets are to be distributed after your debts and final expenses are paid by your estate. You can decide to leave certain assets or certain sums of money to specific individuals, or you may simply state that certain individuals will receive a specified percentage of your net estate.
When drafting a will, you ideally should identify all the assets in your estate so that nothing is left out. Any assets that you will does not distribute will pass instead according to state intestacy law. Alternatively, you may decide to include a residuary clause in your will, which states that any property not specifically bequeathed will pass to one or more individuals.
Note Any Exclusions
Importantly, you should also note any relatives that you specifically do not want to inherit from you. For example, if you make a bequest to your “siblings” but you have a brother that you don’t want to include, your will should specifically state that you wish to disinherit that individual and that you are intentionally making no provision for them in your will.
Choose Guardians/Trustees for Children and Dependents
In your will, you can also name an individual or a couple to serve as guardian for your minor children if your co-parent predeceases you, or to serve as trustee for dependent adult children. With respect to naming a guardian for minor children, the court retains the authority to appoint someone else to serve as guardian if it finds doing so is in a child’s best interests. However, courts normally accept parents’ choice of guardian unless they have specific cause not to do so.
Contact Us for Help in Preparing Your Will
If you are considering writing a will or need help reviewing and updating an existing will, contact Taylor, Taylor & Taylor, Inc. for a confidential consultation with an experienced wills lawyer in Glen Allen, VA.