Basic Elements of a Last Will and Testament
While the laws differ in each state and Wills can range in complexity, there are some basic elements to a Last Will and Testament. Here are some of the basic elements:
Beneficiary: The individual, group, or entity who will receive the property.
Executor: The individual who handles the property you are leaving behind. When you appoint this person in your Will, he/she is called a Personal Representative. If you die without a Will, the Court appoints an administrator, frequently a spouse or adult child, who will serve in the same capacity of handing all the paperwork, preparing assets, dealing with likely heirs, handling claims from creditors, making payments on outstanding debt, and other estate-related matters.
Clauses: Sections in your Will that organize the information in a specific order.
Opening clauses: Lays out basic information about who you are and sets the stage for following clauses
Introductory clauses identifies you as the person making the Will
Family-statement clause introduces and identifies the family members who you will refer to later in the Will.
Tax clause explains how the taxes of your estate will be paid.
Survival clause: This leaves everything in your estate to one named person. For example, married people do this to ensure that everything goes to the surviving spouse.
Guardianship clause: This appoints a guardian for your minor children; a successor should also be named
Giving clauses: These leave specific bequests, or property identified by name and description, to beneficiaries and explain what property goes to which person and under what circumstance.
Real property clauses give property to a specific property, such as giving your home to your sister or your jewelry collection to your daughter.
Personal property clauses have more explicit instructions, such as giving the Google stock to your brother but the General Motors stock to your sister.
Residuary clause: This leaves the balance of the estate, or everything leftover after the specific bequests, to beneficiaries. A residuary clause is essential for any Will so that anything you forget or that is acquired after you write your Will can be distributed.
Appointment clause: This identifies the person who will manage your estate, also called the executor or Personal Representative.
Fiduciary powers clause: This language gives your executor the power to serve as your executor, including any duties that go beyond the basic requirements in Indiana law.
Ending clauses: These include the legalities to meet statutory requirements so your Will is legal and valid, such as your signature, date, and witnesses.
Your Will can be as broad or as specific as you choose. Although, you want to avoid being too broad and leaving the terms of your Will subject to interpretation. Your witnesses cannot be anyone named in your Will. You need to be of sound mind when you create your Will and your witnesses should be of sound mind too. You should always consult an estate planning attorney to create your Will. Our attorneys would be happy to help you create a Will that will leave a legacy for you and your family.