Resources Preparing your Will with WillMate

Preparing your Will with WillMate

Learn how a typical Will is structured, some key roles and concepts and what you need to get started with WillMate.

In this article, we'll describe the following:

The goal is to enable you to comfortably answer the questions for your Will. Highlighted terms are described below.

Note that this article does not constitute legal advice. It is only intended to provide some general information to help you complete your Will form using WillMate. Once you do, you'll then obtain legal advice regarding your Will.

Will Structure

A typical Will is structured as follows:

  • You appoint your executors.
  • Your assets are transferred to your executors in trust.
  • Your executors use your assets to pay your debts, taxes, funeral expenses and other estate administration costs.
  • If your Will gives a specific item of property to someone (such as a specific piece of jewelry), your exectuors will give that property to the beneficiary.
  • If your Will gives a specific gift of cash to someone, your exectuors will pay that amount of money to that beneficiary.
  • At this point, what is left is the residue of your estate. Your executors divide the residue of your estate as directed in your Will. For example, a common form of distribution is to leave the entire residue of your estate to a spouse, but if the spouse dies before you, to divide the residue of your estate equally amongst your children.
  • If you any minor children, you may appoint a custodian to care for them.

Key Roles and Concepts

  • Beneficiary: A beneficiary is someone who inherits part of your estate.
  • Estate: Your estate is all of your assets and liabilities upon your death. The administration of an estate is the process through which an executor (a) collects the assets of the deceased; (b) pays debts, taxes and expenses; and (c) distributes the remaining assets to beneficiaries.
  • Executor: A person or persons whom you appoint to administer your estate (including taking the steps in the previous sentence). You can appoint one or more executors. You can also appoint alternate executor(s) if your initial executors are unable to act.
  • Personal Effects: Generally refers to personal property that is found inside a home, as well as automobiles. Does not include items such as money, investments and real estate. You can a specific item of personal property to someone. To simplify matters for executors, usually a Will describes who can share your personal effects (e.g. you can leave them all to your spouse, but if your spouse dies before you, they can be distributed to your children).
  • Residue: The residue of your estate is all that is left over after paying the above debts, taxes and expenses and making any cash gifts or distribution of property. Generally, this is the most important part of your estate.
  • Custodian: A custodian is a person who you appoint to have custody of your minor children if you and another parent or person with custody dies while the child is a minor. This appointment is only effective for 90 days, during which time the person will need to obtain a court order to have the appointment become permanent. Note that only the appointment of the last parent or person with custody is effetive. If both persons die at the same time, only persons whom they have both appointed to be custodians are effective.

Information Required to Complete the Form

Here is a list of the information that you will need to create your Will:

  • Full legal names of the following persons (as applicable):
    • executor(s)
    • attorney(s) (for Powers of Attorney)
    • beneficiaries
    • alternate executor(s) or attorney(s) if the persons intially appointed predecease you or are unable to act
    • guardians of any minor children
  • Wishes regarding property:
    • specific gifts of cash or other property (including charitable gifts)
    • how should the remainder of your estate be divided (for example, married spouses with children often leave their estate to the spouse or, if the spouse predeceases the person making the Will, divided equally between children)
    • if none of the previous beneficiaries surive you, would you like to appoint alternate people to share in your estate
  • Optional considerations:
    • if you have a pet, do you want to appoint someone and/or leave money for someone to care for the pet?
    • would you like to leave funeral instructions in your Will (these are not binding on your executors)?

Create an Account to Get Started

If you haven't already done so, to create your Will with WillMate, you can start by creating an account.