As an estate planning and business law attorney, I often hear from clients who have a common misconception about what is required to create a valid will. Many people think that they need to list out all of their assets in their will, but this is not actually the case. In fact, including a list of assets in your will can create confusion and cause headaches for your executor or personal representative who will be responsible for sorting out the distribution of your assets. It can also create estate tax considerations. So, how much detail is really necessary in a will?
To create a valid will, there are three basic requirements: the will must be in writing, it must be signed, and it must have at least two witnesses present to witness the signature. That's it! These are the only requirements for a will to be considered valid.
However, if you are working with an attorney to create your will, you may have various forms and provisions included in your state planning documents. This is because attorneys want to make sure they have covered all possible scenarios and are creating a true plan for your future.
So, if you don't need to list all of your assets in your will, why do people often ask about including such a list? There are two situations where it may be necessary to list specific assets in your will: if you are using specific bequests or if you are creating a trust.
Specific bequests are when you leave specific items to specific people in your will. For example, you may specify that you want to leave your grandmother's diamond necklace to your daughter. In this case, you would need to list the necklace as a specific bequest in your will.
A trust is a legal arrangement where a person (the trustor) transfers ownership of certain assets to another person (the trustee) to manage for the benefit of a third person (the beneficiary). In a trust, it is important to list the specific assets that will be included in the trust in order to ensure that they are properly managed and distributed according to your wishes.
So, while it is not necessary to list all of your assets in your will, there may be certain situations where it is necessary to include specific assets. If you have any questions about creating a will or estate planning, it is always a good idea to consult with an experienced attorney.
Do You Need an Estate Plan?
If you don't already have an estate plan, or if you have one that needs to be updated, let's schedule a Legal Strategy Session online or by calling my Edina, Minnesota office at (612) 294-6982 or my New York City office at (646) 847-3560. My office will be happy to find a convenient time for us to have a phone call to review the best options and next steps for you to work with an estate planning attorney to get your estate plan prepared.