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What to Include in a Will

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Estate planning is something that many people don’t want to think about, but it’s important to ensure you have a will at a minimum. A will lets your loved ones know exactly what your wishes are regarding assets and property when you pass away. While a will won’t escape a probate hearing, it will keep the probate court from having to decide how to divide all your property.

When it comes to preparing a will, it’s important to speak with a knowledgeable Washington, DC estate planning attorney who can help ensure all necessary elements are included. Here are some factors that should be addressed in your last will and testament.

Assets

You’ll need to describe all your assets and determine where they go when you pass away. Assets are more than just any real estate you own, and everything should be clearly described in detail. For example, if you plan to leave your classic auto collection to a child, you need to describe each vehicle in detail, including the make and model of the vehicles. You should include bank accounts, cash, heirlooms, jewelry, and other property. Anything that you want to go to a specific person should be included.

Pets

While the courts may look at a pet as property, for many people, a pet is an important part of the family. And, that means you should consider what you want to happen to your pets after you die.

Minor Children

If you have minor children, naming a guardian in your will is important. This will determine who takes care of your children in the event you pass away before the children are legally adults. There are laws that dictate what would happen to a minor child in the event of a parent dying without a will. In some circumstances, the options may not be desirable, so it’s important to spell that out in your will.

Debts

Don’t forget to address your debts, any other expenses, and taxes like estate and inheritance taxes. If you have specific instructions on how funeral expenses should be paid, you need to spell that out.

Does someone owe you a debt? You can decide how you want this handled as well. Do you want to consider the debt cleared? Or assigned to another party?

Alternate Beneficiaries

You should name alternate beneficiaries in the event your intended beneficiaries pass away before you do.

Choose an Executor

You must name someone to serve as the executor of your estate. This is the person who will carry out all the terms of the will. You should speak to the person you want to be your executor beforehand and let them know, because some people would prefer not to take on that responsibility.

Have Witnesses

You should have at least two witnesses present when you sign your will. You can use a “self-proving affidavit” which can make things simpler during probate, but your signature must be notarized as well.

Estate Planning Services in Washington, DC

For all your estate planning needs, contact the team at Tobin, O’Connor & Ewing. We have years of experience handling wills, living trusts, guardian and conservatorship matters, and more. Call our office at 202-362-5900 to schedule a consultation.

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