Essential Components of a Last Will and Testament

A Last Will and Testament sets forth the wishes and directions of the “Testator” upon his/her death. It is important that, in considering the various issues of one’s Will, the following items be incorporated:

  1. Executor
    The first consideration of the person making the Will is who will be selected to carry out his/her wishes upon death. The person selected should be a responsible, trusted friend or relative. The person selected should not be someone who has been convicted of a felony, and preferably an American citizen who is over 18 years old. The Testator should approach the proposed Executor to make sure that he/she would be willing to serve as the same. Alternate Executors should be selected as well, in the event that the selected person does not serve. If the Testator wishes to restrict certain rights of the Executor (e.g. mortgage property or make a loan from the estate), the same should be stated in the Will.

  2. Guardians of children
    If the Testator has minor children, a serious discussion should be had with the friend or relative to be selected as guardian of the children in the event that neither parent survives. Alternate guardians should be selected as well, in the event that the selected person does not serve.

  3. Beneficiaries
    The people or entities to whom property will be left by the Testator are called the beneficiaries. The Testator may designate the property to be received by the beneficiaries in terms of specific dollar amounts, percentages of the estate, specific items, or rights to be given.

It is important in estate planning to be cognizant of the fact that certain assets will pass “outside of the estate,” and not be controlled by the dispositions in the Will, but rather by their own terms. Examples of such assets are life insurance policies, annuities, Individual Retirement Accounts, and other types where beneficiaries are designated therein.

R. A. Klass
Your Court Street Lawyer

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