Gifting things to loved ones after your passing is a kind and reassuring act, but requires thorough planning. A last will and testament is put in place to help you outline your requests when you’re no longer able to do so. In order to properly address your assets and other gifts, there are certain documents needed for will preparation. In this article, we’re reviewing a few major components that should be included.
Property division is an incredibly sensitive issue after the departure of a loved one, so to ensure the transactions are executed smoothly and everything plays out in accordance with your final wishes, you should collect a number of documents when composing your will.
In this article, we'll be discussing what sort of documents you’ll need, why you’ll need them, and how you can make sure you’ve got everything in check before preparing your last will and testament, but first, let’s establish a few will-writing basics.
Why Is A Will Necessary?
A last will and testament dictates who will receive your discrete pieces of property (otherwise known as assets), after your passing. This is necessary because the splitting of a departed loved one’s assets can be tricky to navigate – both emotionally and legally speaking – unless there are clear guidelines in place.
Who Can Create Wills?
It’s a common misconception that only lawyers can draw up wills. In truth, as long as you’re over the age of 18, you can compose your will entirely on your own, but this is only recommended if you have a fairly simple plan and minimal assets. Additionally, it’s also imperative that you consider the legal components to a will. Drafting one independently can increase the likelihood that a will isn’t outlined properly, leading to probate issues and discrepancies when carrying out the will in the event of a death.
Service providers like wills.com make it easy for you to create a will from the comfort of your home, while still adhering to state guidelines and providing clarity on every component of a needed will. Should you need some guidance in your will-writing, the most efficient and cost-effective way to find it is by using our comprehensive online will-writing service.
Documents Needed for Will Preparation
It’s common during Will preparation to feel overwhelmed. However, writing a Will is an important, necessary part of every Estate Plan. With an effective Will in place, you can rest easy knowing that you’ve set up your family and loved ones with protection. It can also help you avoid issues that occur after your passing. Here are some things to note and documents needed for will preparation:
Proof Of Identity
First thing’s first, to write a will, you must first prove that you are who you say you are, which can be done using any of the following documents:
Social security card
Proof of Address
Laws regarding inheritance fluctuate from state to state, so it’s important to disclose proof of address, otherwise, there may be legal issues with the wording in your will. Some of the documents you can use as proof of address include…
Lease agreements or rental contracts
Mortgage statements (if you’re a homeowner)
Documents Pertaining To Personal Assets
As we’ve already established, the last will and testament is a means of disseminating your worldly belongings, or assets, after your passing, which means you’ll need to compose a list of said assets; however, listing them isn’t your only task.
Before you can pass certain assets to somebody else, you must first prove that they’re yours to give by providing any relevant documentation that asserts your ownership of the assets.
Whether you’re writing your will yourself, meeting with a solicitor, or composing your final wishes online, these documents are essential.
Assets commonly found in wills can include, but are not limited to…
Real estate deeds — The ownership of contents within a property is usually implied by the deed, but if there are any particularly significant items, solicitors may find proof of purchase helpful.
Vehicular titles — A vehicular title establishes you as the sole owner of the vehicle, and therefore, well within your rights to pass it along.
Intellectual property deeds, such as royalties, patents, and copyrights — Say, for example, you wrote a song that earns royalties. You’ll need to pass the deed on to your beneficiary if they’re to start receiving the royalties that were once paid to you.
Bank account statements — These statements will help you pass ownership of the account and its contents to your loved ones, whether it’s a savings, checking, or money market account.
Retirement accounts — Again, an account statement is enough evidence that you are the account holder.
Stocks and bonds certificates — In this day and age, these are largely digital, but that’s not a problem.
Digital assets, such as cryptocurrency, NFTs, pictures, videos, writings, etc. — Usually all that is required to prove ownership of digital assets is the ability to access them. To pass them on to a loved one, they’ll need all relevant passwords, account names, and email addresses.
Alternative investments, such as art, jewelry, furniture, timeshares, etc.
Anything that you wish to pass on must be itemized in your will, along with information on each asset’s whereabouts.
Documents Pertaining To Your Current Debt
Unfortunately, once we pass, our debts don’t go anywhere and must be settled out of our personal assets before property ownership can be transferred to our loved ones. Consequently, you must provide documentation that accounts for your current debts that may include…
Unsettled medical bills
Lines of credit (home equity or otherwise)
Any original written or digital agreements between you and your creditors is more than enough evidence to establish your existing debt.
Documents And Information Pertaining To Your Beneficiaries
You’ve probably got some idea of whom you’d like certain assets to end up with. Next, you have to give the probation and estate lawyers involved with the writing of your will any documents or information that establishes who your chosen beneficiaries are (as well as which assets they should receive), where they are, and how they can be contacted.
For each beneficiary, you will need to provide your will-writing team with…
Their full legal name
Up-to-date addresses and contact information
Date of birth
Birth certificates or adoption papers (for minor beneficiaries only)
Social security number
Information Pertaining To Trustees, Representatives, or Guardians
Should you need or want to appoint a representative or trustee of your estate, or perhaps assign a temporary/permanent guardian to your children, you must also provide your will-writing team with their information, including…
Full legal name
Up-to-date addresses and contact information
Bear in mind that any trustees, representatives, or guardians must be given forewarning and agree to their prospective position before it’s penned into the will.
Tips For Managing Documents Intended For Your Will
It’s important when examining documents needed for will preparation to draft a document checklist. Make a note of each document we’ve discussed in this article, and create a checklist so you don’t forget anything when the time comes to pass on the necessary forms.
Make copies of all physical documents
Physical documents can be destroyed in a fire, stolen, or lost in the mail, so I’d recommend making a couple of copies of each document and storing them in a secure location, which brings me to my next tip.
Keep all documentation in a safe place
Protect your essential documents by storing them somewhere secure, such as a fire-proof safe.
Make sure they’re well organized and clearly labeled
Using appropriate filing solutions and labels will make collecting and dealing with your will documents a lot easier — avoid messy piles of mixed forms.
Organize any digital documentation on your computer
Most documentation is digital these days, so make sure you’re just as organized in the virtual realm as you are in the physical. Store all relevant documents in clearly labeled, easy-to-find locations, and store copies on a discrete memory device.
Make Separate Lists of Digital Assets
Digital assets are still considered quite novel in the world of will writing, so dealing with them separately is advised for the sake of clarity.
Contact all beneficiaries for up-to-date information well in advance
Sometimes people are hard to get hold of or won’t reply to an inquiry for a while, so it’s best to request any necessary details from beneficiaries well before you start writing your will.