A complete inventory list for your last will and testament helps you avoid omissions and mistakes during your estate planning. A last will is a document containing all of your instructions for the division of your assets when you die. In order to address your entire potential estate, you must make a list of what you own first.
Preparing a list of all the real estate you own is part of will preparation, but you should also include value estimates for each property. Knowing the approximate value of each property helps you plan your will provisions to achieve your estate-planning goals. For example, if you wish to leave your two children equal shares of your real estate but fail to account the value of the properties, you can end up shortchanging one child. You might want to account for long-term liabilities -- such as a 40 year mortgage with most of the term left -- when listing real estate for will purposes. The value of the property in terms of a gift to your heir will be reduced by the loan.
The balances of your financial accounts, such as checking, savings and money market, typically become part of your estate when you pass. Listing the accounts and the current balances helps you determine the approximate cash value of your estate. Any money bequests you make -- specific amounts of money left to named persons in your will -- must come out of the estate balance, including the financial accounts. Use the account list to ensure you're making reasonable bequests. Bequests the estate can't fill might lapse, leaving the intended recipient with nothing.
Jointly-held accounts or payable-on-death accounts -- accounts that allow you to name the owner upon your death -- should not be included in your will, as the accounts pass outside of probate.
Personal Items and Vehicles
You don't need to list all your personal belongings in your will inventory. Towels, blankets and other common household items can be left to one person in a blanket bequest. However, specific items you want to pass to a person must be included in your will. Family heirlooms, expensive jewelry and sentimental items you want to go to a particular family member or friend should be on your personal items list. Failing to include a specific bequest in your will for a precious item could result in the item going to the wrong person.
You can leave all vehicles to a specific person or you can leave particular vehicles to persons you name in your will. If you're planning to leave vehicles to specific persons, make sure you include the make, model and year of each one in your inventory list.
Other less tangible items should be part of your inventory list. For example, if you own 60 percent of a business, your ownership interest will become part of your estate. You have the option of leaving the ownership interest to a family member who you want to take your place.
You might be able to make a list of your personal property and note who receives each item on a memorandum of personal property, depending on your state's laws. You must state that you're using the memorandum in your will and attach the document to the will itself.
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