blank paper for will

A last will and testament details how testators want their assets distributed upon their death and make other essential arrangements for their loved ones. It is never too early to draw up that essential document, so you may be wondering what to include in a will. Asking that question is important because how you write your will can have immediate and long-term effects on your beneficiaries’ quality of life.

Are you looking for advice regarding what to put in your will? If so, this article is for you. We will discuss the various assets and bits of information that belong in your will and certain items that should not be in there. Continue below to learn more about drafting the ideal will for your situation!

What Are the Critical Pieces of Information You Must Include in Your Will?

Upon mentioning the topic of things to include in a will, the first items that probably came to mind were some of your most valuable assets. That instinct is understandable, and assets are indeed important items to include in your will. However, those are far from the only details you should mention.

For this portion of the article, we will focus on the critical bits of information that should be in all wills. Carefully consider them before including them in your will to ensure no problems pop up.


The purpose of a last will and testament is to convey your wishes regarding legal matters you want to exercise control over, even after your passing. To ensure that people follow your wishes, you must first make it clear that the document’s contents accurately account for them.

Include some form of acknowledgment in the will so it is less likely to be contested during probate. Mention that the document is indeed your last will and testament and that you were of sound mind when you wrote it. You should also note in the will that no one pressured you to create that document.

The exact wording of your acknowledgments can make a difference, so run them by your estate planning attorney before including them in the final document.

Personal Details

Next up, you need to include personal information in your will. Personal details you must provide include your full legal name, marital status, and the names of your spouse and children, whichever are applicable. Providing these personal details will further cement the legitimacy of the document.

Additional Provisions

Your family situation or asset collection may be quite unconventional. Because of that, an outside party reviewing your will may be confused by some of the terms and wishes you would have listed. If the probate court also finds the contents of your will confusing, there is a good chance it will get bogged down in the process.

Avoid those unnecessary complications by including additional provisions in your will. These provisions can clarify any terms that may be the source of confusion during probate. Allow your lawyer to examine those additional provisions beforehand so they can flag any potential issues.


Now that you have supplied the necessary details that provide proper context for the contents of your will, you can proceed to name the parties that will benefit from your estate. Put together a list of primary beneficiaries and indicate which of your assets each one is supposed to receive.

Your spouse, children, and other relatives will likely be the first people you think of while coming up with beneficiaries. However, you should take more time to examine the situation if you wish to name a relative with special needs as a primary beneficiary. We will get more into that topic a bit later in the article.

When naming individuals as beneficiaries, you should provide as many details as possible to prevent confusion and disputes. List their full legal names when you include them in your will.

Some testators also leave assets to their favorite charitable organizations. If you plan to do the same, you should provide more than the organization’s name. Provide other details that will make the organization easier to identify so they receive the assets as soon as possible.

Adding contingent beneficiaries to your last will and testament is also recommended. By adding contingent beneficiaries to your will, you can effectively create a backup plan in case some of your primary beneficiaries pass away before you do. Even if your primary beneficiaries are no longer around, you can rest assured that your assets will still go to the people and organizations you care about.

Executor of Your Estate

The testator is the person who created the last will and testament. Meanwhile, the executor is responsible for distributing the assets included in the testator’s will.

Although adequately distributing the assets in the will is the executor’s main job, they still must perform various tasks. These tasks include taking inventory of the estate’s assets, appraising their value, paying the estate’s debts and taxes, and putting the will through probate. Throughout this time, the executor must also follow any orders the surrogate’s court handed down. Before stepping away from their role as executor, the person named must also provide a detailed accounting of the estate’s assets and how they were either used or distributed.

It would be an understatement to say that the executor has a lot on their plate. You must consider all factors before naming an executor.

In New York State, the executor of an estate must be at least eighteen years old and either a US or New York State citizen. They must also be of sound mind and have no felony convictions. The court may also prevent an individual from serving as an executor based on concerns over how they may oversee the assets.

One of your trusted family members can serve as the executor of your estate. You can also give that role to your attorney.

Guardianship Wishes

Do not forget to detail your guardianship situation if you pass away before your children turn eighteen. Naming a primary guardian as well as alternate candidates will increase the chances of your kids ending up with the people you trust the most if you unexpectedly pass away. Adding these details to your will is especially important if your children have had issues living with your former spouse or some of your relatives before.

Your foremost concern should be arranging guardianship for your kids, but your pets will also need caretakers. Remember to detail your wishes for your furry friends in your will.

What Are the Assets You Must Include in Your Will?

We have gone through the critical pieces of information that you must detail in your will. Now that you know those essential inclusions better, we can focus on your assets.

You should account for most of your assets in your last will and testament, but not all of them. The assets that you must mention in your will are detailed below.

Bank Accounts

Chief among the assets you should include in your will are bank accounts. Both your checking and savings accounts belong here. Transfer ownership of those assets to your beneficiaries to ensure your loved ones have money to use in the event of your unexpected death.

Joint bank accounts work differently than conventional accounts. According to Bankrate, most joint bank accounts already come with automatic rights of survivorship. That means the surviving co-owner of the joint account will assume full ownership if the other signer passes away. Because joint accounts automatically become the property of the surviving owner, accounting for them in your will is unnecessary.


The investments you have maintained over the years should also go into your last will and testament. Those may be among the most valuable assets in your estate, so do not forget about them while drafting your will.

Of course, you cannot expect your young beneficiaries to manage those investments as well as you do. After all, they do not have the benefit of studying and tracking those investments over several years. Leave those investments to your more knowledgeable beneficiaries to ensure they properly manage them.

Real Estate Properties

Your will should also detail the distribution of your real estate properties to your beneficiaries. The real estate properties you should earmark for distribution include your homes and commercial properties. Commercial properties include any stores, office buildings, or apartments in your possession.

Do not let existing mortgages stop you from including real estate properties in your last will and testament. You can still transfer ownership of those properties even if they are not completely paid. Simply provide financial assets that your beneficiaries can use to pay those outstanding mortgages so they do not cause any issues down the line.

Business Ventures

Gifting ownership stakes in your business ventures to your beneficiaries may also be an option. We say that it may only be an option because the legality of that transaction will ultimately depend on the purchase or ownership contracts you signed. The contracts may come with terms indicating that the stakes of deceased co-owners should be sold to the surviving partners. They may also indicate that the other partners must sign off on any ownership transfers.

Transferring ownership is simpler if you are the sole owner of a particular business. You do not need to worry about other partners, so your beneficiary can immediately take over. If the beneficiary you want to take over your business is still too young, you can transfer ownership to a trust and name a temporary caretaker.

Physical Assets

A comprehensive will should also detail plans for transferring your physical assets. Physical assets you should consider for transfer are your vehicles, heirlooms, antiques, jewelry, and art pieces. Since vehicles come with titles, you should also note where those documents are in your will to facilitate the easy transfer of ownership.

Digital Assets

Lastly, you should also decide how to manage your digital assets via your last will and testament. Certain digital assets, such as cryptocurrency accounts, have significant value. Make sure that whoever assumes ownership of those accounts will also possess the necessary login details.

Other digital assets do not necessarily have monetary value. Instead, you want them accounted for in your will to preserve essential contacts and documents. You may also add them to your will to maintain their sentimental value. Digital assets that fall into this category include email and social media accounts, websites, photos, and videos.

What Are the Assets You Must Not Include in Your Will?

Not all assets in your possession belong in a will. Managing some of those assets differently would be best to ensure a smooth transfer.

Let’s go over those assets in this section of the article.

Assets for a Beneficiary With Special Needs

Earlier in this article, we mentioned that you should put more thought into transferring ownership of assets if your beneficiaries have special needs. Exercising more caution with those assets is crucial because the person receiving them may lose access to government benefits if they accept your gift.

Instead of transferring ownership of those assets via a will, you can keep them in a special needs trust until your beneficiary needs them.

Retirement Accounts and Life Insurance Plans

If your retirement account or life insurance plan allows you to name a beneficiary, there is no need to add it to your will. Ownership of that account will automatically transfer to your beneficiary, so taking that extra step is no longer needed. This line of thinking also applies to investments that come with beneficiaries.

Payable-on-Death Accounts

According to Investopedia, payable-on-death accounts come with beneficiaries. If the owner of the payable-on-death account passes away, the assets will immediately go to the named beneficiary. Setting up these payable-on-death accounts is a great way to get money in the hands of your beneficiaries quickly because they do not need to pass through probate.

Hopefully, the contents of this article have helped you understand what to include in a will. Armed with that knowledge, you can craft a comprehensive will that ensures a bright future for your beneficiaries. Contact us today at the Alber Law Group if you need help drafting your will!

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