What Things Should I Always Put in My Will?
6 min read

What Things Should I Always Put in My Will?

Do I need a Will? What things should I always put in my Will? In this article, we'll go over reasons why you should create a Will, along with key details you must include in your documents! Keep reading to learn more.

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You’ve probably heard the claim that “every person over the age of 18 should have a will, even if they don’t have any assets.” And you’re probably wondering if this claim is just a plot hatched by greedy estate planning lawyers, or if there is some truth to it. Well, at FastWill we only serve up the truth - and the truth is that every person over the age of 18 *really does* need a will. Here’s why: a will is designed just as much for the future as it is for the present. When you draft a will, it’s there just in case you need it, now or in the future. 

No Assets, No Will, Big Problems

Let’s say you are employed, single, and have one dog, a spunky beagle named Spot. Then one day, a truck hits you while you’re taking the dog for a walk. You die, but Spot lives. You also have a 10-year old Toyota Corolla. Since you have a full-time job, your parents search your computer for evidence you had a life insurance policy through your job, but they can’t find any paperwork. They’re too grief-stricken about your death to keep looking and since no one from your work mentions insurance, they let it go. Your parents like Spot, but they live in a Florida retirement community that doesn’t allow pets. 

So what happens next? Who gets Spot? What about the $795 in your bank account? Do they ever figure out you had life insurance? What about your electronic assets? Without a will, it could take months to sort all of this out, and Spot might wind up living at a shelter. All of this is avoidable if you have a will.

You probably won’t die in a freak accident tomorrow. But your will can grow with you as your life changes. Once your will is complete, you can stick it in a safe place and forget about it, knowing your family and assets are protected. 

So let’s consider the things you absolutely must have in your last will and testament.

  1. Beneficiaries: Designating Who Inherits Your Assets

In our example, you only have a dog, a few dollars, a life insurance policy, and an old car to your name. But if you pass away right now, someone is going to inherit your Corolla (and right now it’s a great market for used cars). With a will you get to name the beneficiary of that car. Maybe your cousin Eddie takes the bus everywhere and he could really use a car. You can decide who you want to inherit your assets by naming them as beneficiaries in your will. It’s also a good idea to include alternate beneficiaries in the event that your primary beneficiary dies before you do.

Moreover, imagine that you don’t die in a freak accident. Instead, you pass away ten years from now when you own a home and a new boat. If you don’t name a beneficiary in your will, that property will go through a slow probate process and may wind up being given to someone who you really don’t want to inherit your property.

  1. An Executor

All wills must name a person as an executor.  An executor is the person who will manage your estate and carry out your wishes after your death. You can pick anyone you want as the executor, but be sure to choose someone who is trustworthy and capable of handling financial and legal matters. However, try to avoid the complication of naming co-executors, such as your children or your parents. When more than one person is given power over your estate, it invites conflict. The purpose of your will is to make it easy on everyone, rather than creating more problems.

Think of your executor as an extension of yourself. You can leave that person instructions on things they need to take care of on your behalf. Consider the life insurance policy in our scenario. Life insurance isn’t typically included in your will because it is meant to go to the beneficiary listed in the policy. The will can’t override the insurance policy. But unfortunately, many life insurance benefits go unclaimed because no one notifies the company of the death. Life insurance companies usually don't even find out the policyholder dies until someone informs the company, usually the beneficiary.  You might think the company will figure it out once the premium payments stop, but in reality, the company will assume the policyholder stopped paying, not that he or she died. If you have an insurance policy, inform the beneficiary or leave instructions in your will for your executor to notify the beneficiary. Then the beneficiary can contact the insurance company and file a claim.

  1. Guardians for Minors

If you have minor children, your will must name a guardian to care for them in the event of your death. It’s also important to name an alternative guardian in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to serve.

  1. Pet Power of Attorney

If you have a pet, you should definitely create a pet power of attorney to ensure that the pet goes to someone you trust. You can include this in will documents prepared through FastWill.

  1. Instructions for Specific Bequests 

In our hypothetical, you don’t have many assets. But assets include more than just houses and cars. Maybe you have your grandfather’s World War II Purple Heart. Or a sneaker collection. Or heirloom pearls. If these items have sentimental value for you, then be sure to list them as a bequest in your will. A bequest is a gift of personal property. 

  1. Instructions on Digital Assets 

Many people now own digital assets, including photographs, social media accounts, cryptocurrency, and NFTs. If you don’t leave instructions on what you own and how to access them, it can be difficult for your heirs to even get access to them. That’s because the companies managing those assets have their terms and conditions regarding access and control of this data. They are often reluctant to let anyone access your accounts on your behalf unless they have specific instructions from a will or court. 

In your will, make a list of digital assets and their passwords so that your executor (or anyone else you name) knows how to access them. 

  1. Real Estate

In our hypothetical, you don’t own a home yet, but by the time your will kicks in, you might own a house, rental property, and even a vacation home. The bottom line is if you own any kind of real estate, you must be clear about who should get the property when you die. If you still have a mortgage on real estate, then you need to consider if you have enough money to pay the mortgage off. If you have a life insurance policy, it may be enough to pay off the debt, or at least allow your heirs to make monthly payments for several years. 

Keep in mind that if you own property as joint tenants with rights of survivorship with another person, the property automatically passes to your joint tenant upon your death. If you own property in common with survivorship rights, it doesn’t need to be included in the will.

  1. Cash

Cash in your checking account, money market accounts, and savings accounts pass by will unless the accounts contain a Payable on Death (POD) designee. If there is no POD designee, then you should mention that in your will.

Let FastWill Manage the Details

You can start making your will today right from the comfort of your home. Let FastWill guide you through the process to create a will that will serve you now and in the future. Just be sure to review your will periodically, especially when you go through major life changes. FastWill will be by your side the whole way, regardless of how big or how small your portfolio looks.

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