Don’t Leave It to Chance: 15 Critical Additions for Your Will

Nobody wants to think about the end of life, especially when they’re young. However, organizing your will protects your family, stops arguments, and ensures everyone honors your wishes.

We know the basics of what to put in our wills, but what if we forget critical additions? This article covers everything that may be important to you and your family.

Making critical additions to your will is relevant because the person helping you create the will may not think of some of these seemingly small things.

We chose these 15 critical additions based on our experience and talking to those who had challenging issues with the contents of a will after losing a loved one.

1. Naming An Executor

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The executor of a will is the person who acts on your behalf to fulfill your wishes as detailed in your will. It’s your responsibility to name an executor. Otherwise, the law will assign an administrator.

The executor must be someone you trust who agrees to undertake the task. If you write your will early, you can assign substitute executors or update your will if a situation changes.

2. Who Takes Care of Children Under 18?

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When your babies were born, you probably chose godparents. Do you want them to take care of your children if you die? Are they financially equipped to support and raise your children?

After deciding who you would like to take care of your family, discuss what the carers would need. For instance, you could allocate financial support in your will to put your children through college.

3. Sharing Your Estate

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How do you want to divide your assets? You can split them among family, friends, and charities. You might like to leave family heirlooms or personal items to a specific person.

Another consideration is the property you own. If you’re married and have joint ownership, it automatically passes to your partner. Still, it could be problematic if you’re not married and don’t gift the property in your will.

4. Your Residuary Estate

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When someone dies, any property, cash, life insurance policies, investments, and other possessions left behind are the deceased person’s estate. The named executor manages the estate, organizes debt clearance, pays inheritance tax, and makes other relevant payments.

The remaining assets and cash are the residuary estate shared between the named benefactors in the will.

5. Care For Your Pets

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If you have pets, undoubtedly, you want to know that a loving guardian will care for them for the rest of their lives. Choose someone who knows your pet well and is happy to take ownership of them.

Within the terms of the will, you can assign a portion of your estate in a simple trust to provide funding for caring for your pets.

6. Funeral Arrangements

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You can express your last wishes for funeral arrangements in your will, although they are not legally binding. The named executor can decide to override your requests, which is why choosing an executor you trust is essential.

You may opt for burial or cremation and have specifics about that. In addition, you can add details on organ donation if that’s something you want.

7. Where You Want Your Ashes Scattered

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If your last wishes are for a cremation, do you have a specific place where you would like your family and friends to scatter your ashes? If so, make it clear in the will.

It could be on a beautiful beach, perhaps where you first proposed to your spouse, a spot in the garden, on your favorite walk, or scattered in the ocean.

8. Details Of Insurance Policies

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Ensure all insurance documentation is safely stored and not placed in multiple locations. In your will, list your insurance policies, what each involves, and whom it concerns.

Add details of where you keep the insurance policies and who is responsible for contacting the companies to notify them of any claims (usually the named executor).

9. Digital Assets And Online Accounts

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Perhaps you have a crypto portfolio scattered across several cryptocurrency exchanges. Or you could have offshore or online accounts that your family may not have access to. Gaining entry to these accounts can be tricky, so ensure you have all login details in a safe place, which you specify in your will.

Choose who to allocate these assets to and contact the companies with information about your benefactors.

10. Overseas Properties

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If you include overseas properties in your will, be aware that they may be subject to inheritance law in the country where they are located. Some countries’ laws dictate who you can and cannot leave your assets to. For example, France, Italy, and Spain have forced heirship rules, meaning you cannot disinherit your children.

Check these details before writing your will to avoid complex issues for the named executor.

11. Charities You Want To Support

East Anglian Children’s Hospice charity shop
Image Credit: Kolforn, Own Work – CC BY-SA 4.0/Wiki commons.

You can gift a specific charity or charities in your will in several ways. You can determine a nominated cash sum, asset, property, or part of your residuary estate. If you prefer, you can allow the will’s trustees to decide.

When adding a charity to your will, include the registered charity number, as charities occasionally change their names.

12. Specific Assets Like Family Heirlooms

Heirloom 1893 pocket watch with 18 carat gold case
Image Credit: Auckland Museum – CC BY 4.0/Wiki Commons.

You can assign a chattel clause if you want to leave specific tangible assets, such as personal belongings or family heirlooms, like paintings, jewelry, photographs, etc.

A chattel clause means you can list items you want to gift your loved ones that the executor cannot override. Therefore, you have the reassurance that your wishes will be honored.

13. Any Outstanding Debts

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Gather all relevant documents relating to outstanding debts, such as mortgages, car finance, taxes, and loans. List the companies you owe and how much is outstanding. If your estate isn’t enough to cover the amount outstanding, debts are paid in order of priority, and the remaining debts are written off.

Anything left returns to the residuary estate according to the terms of the will.

14. Investments Like Stocks and Shares

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If you have investments like stocks and shares, you might like to pass them on to your friends and family. We recommend talking to the people you intend to gift these assets to.

Investing can be challenging, and not everyone is predisposed to having the financial literacy to navigate the stock market successfully.

15. Leaving A Thriving Business

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If you own a business, you might want to leave it to a family member or friend. Your needs must be 100% clear so that the person understands what you want them to do for the business. They are unlikely to make it a success if they have no business skills.

Talk to the people you’re considering to see if they are interested and capable of taking over the business. Alternatively, you could add the sale of the company to the will, for which the executor will be responsible.

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