Making a Will: A Quick Checklist

Making a Will: A Quick Checklist

by Michelle Fabio, Esq., October 2014

Having a last will and testament ensures your wishes will be followed and your loved ones are taken care of after your death. But if making a will sounds like a daunting task to you, know it doesn’t have to be.

To get you started is the following will checklist, an easy-to-follow framework for how to make a will. With a checklist before you, all that will be left to do is to sit down and make a will.

1. Beneficiaries

When you are ready to write your last will, think about who among your loved ones you would like to inherit real and/or personal property from you.

Listing your beneficiaries may seem like an unnecessary step in the process, but remember that recent births, deaths, marriages, divorces, etc., may influence who you wish to include in your will. At this point, you don't need to specify who you want to receive what; just focus on the people involved so you know you won't be forgetting anyone.

Also know that disinheriting your spouse and/or children may not be possible in some jurisdictions.

2. Assets

Make a list of your significant assets you will want to leave to loved ones. This can include houses, vehicles, and family businesses, and then work your way down to smaller items like jewelry or family heirlooms.

Some assets cannot be bequeathed within a will (or you may wish to handle them in other ways such as living trusts), but at this point, you should get all the assets down on paper so you know what you're dealing with.

When listing your assets, remember that you can only distribute property that is owned solely in your name. That is, if you are married and your spouse holds joint title on an asset, you cannot leave that property to someone else in your will.

3. Debts

Make a list of all of your debts, including but not limited to the following:

  • Mortgage
  • Car loans/leases
  • Credit cards
  • Student loans
  • Personal loans
  • Outstanding taxes

Although you won't be leaving your debts to anyone in your will, it is helpful to get an idea of your estate's overall financial status so you can plan accordingly regarding funeral expenses, probate costs, and taxes.

Some debts may become the responsibility of the estate, so you may want to consider taking out a life insurance policy, for instance, to help cover certain expenses after your death.

4. Executor

The person who will handle your estate and the provisions in your will is called the executor, and you choose this person within the will itself.

You should make sure the executor will be up to the task of handling your estate and also that the person is open to accepting the responsibility.

Having an alternate executor in mind is a good idea in case your first choice can't serve.

5. Guardians

If you have minor children, your will is the perfect place to name a guardian for them should their other parent be unable to care for them for whatever reason (including if both parents die at the same time).

You can also consider how you want to provide for the care of your children; you may want to leave someone else in charge of property they will inherit until the children reach the age of majority.

Using the Will Checklist and Thereafter

As you can see, making a will doesn’t have to be a complicated or time-consuming task. With a little bit of planning ahead of time, you will have all the information you need before you; you might even be able to simply enter it into a last will and testament form to create a valid will.

Once you have written a will and made sure it complies with your state's law regarding the execution of wills, you should store it somewhere safe and let others know where to find it.

Your job regarding your will still isn't done, though, as you should periodically revisit it to make sure it still represents your wishes—yearly around your birthday is a good time to do so.

With your checklist done, it can take less than 15 minutes to complete your will online. LegalZoom’s Last Will comes with free revisions for 30 days. Plus, as a member of the personal legal plan, you get unlimited revisions to your last will, access to independent attorneys, secure storage of your will and more.