The Devil in the Details: Drafting Your Will, Part I
A will is only as good as the thought that went into preparing it. What this means is that a hastily drafted will probably won’t reflect the desired intentions of its maker. On the other hand, a will that is the product of much reflection, carefully drafted and properly executed under the supervision of an attorney will ensure that it does just what its maker intended.
If your will is poorly drafted and not specific about your exact wants, your family may spend years fighting in court over your true intentions. Just because you executed a will doesn’t mean that your wishes will be completely honored when you die if you aren’t clear.
The devil is in the details, and here are some tips for making a will and other estate planning documents to insure that you final wishes are carried out:
- Inventory your assets — You should provide your attorney with a complete list of your assets, including real property, personal property, cash security and retirement accounts, pension and death benefits from employment, business and partnership interests, and the estimate the worth of each. Include details such as account numbers, the title of each asset and any designated beneficiary (in trust for (ITF) or payable upon death (POD)) of an asset. You may wish to consider providing passwords to your executor separately, especially if any of your accounts generate only paperless statements.
- Decide who will get what — Your will directs specifically how you want your property to be divided at your death. You can designate specific amounts and/or specific items of property to certain heirs with the remainder or all of your estate being divided between your designated beneficiaries by percentages listed in your will. As your will only directs the distribution of your assets which are not held jointly with another, or to which there is no designated beneficiary, you should also review how your assets are held and your beneficiary designations.
- Designate an executor — An executor carries out the terms of your will. Make sure you ask ahead of time if they are willing to serve. You should also designate a successor executor should your designated executor be unable to serve at the time of your death.
- Designate a guardian for your minor children — Decide who you want to raise your children if both you and the other parent die, and make sure the guardian is willing to serve in this very important role. Also, name someone to manage the children’s money until they reach adulthood. You may designate the same person, or different people, to raise your children and to manage your children’s money. The person who manages your children’s money until adulthood, or any other trust created under your will, is a trustee.
There are several more, continued in Part Two of The Devil in the Details.
If you follow these tips and include these details, your New York wills attorney will have no problem drafting an airtight document that will do just what you want it to do.