Making a Will

Wills follow a traditional format and include many standard terms. But a will also reflects its maker's wishes and plans for providing for the needs of family and friends. Although it is difficult to plan for everything that might happen, here are some points to consider when drawing up a will:
  • Who do you want to serve as executor to your estate? (An executor is a person designated to carry out the terms of a will).
  • Is it likely that additional children will be born or adopted?
  • Do you want your stepchildren to receive a share of your estate?
  • If you have young children, who should be appointed as their guardians?
  • Do you want to give your spouse complete freedom to sell or give away your property if he or she remarries?
  • Who should receive the remainder of your estate after all specific bequests have been made?
  • Would it be a good idea for your estate to pay off real estate mortgages before your property is turned over to your beneficiaries?
  • Do you want to cancel debts owed to you by any of your beneficiaries, or do you want these debts to be deducted from their inheritances?
  • In case assets must be sold to pay off any debts still outstanding when you die, do you want to make a priority list, designating what is to be sold first and what last?
  • How should your estate be handled if you and your spouse are killed in the same accident?
This information has been obtained from the Reader's Digest 'Legal Questions and Answers', 1996.

What does an Executor do?

Acting as the executor of an estate is a serious responsibility, sometimes involving a lot of complicated, time-consuming work. After the person who made the will has died, the executor is responsible for seeing that the terms of the will are carried out. The duties include:
  • looking after the funeral arrangements, if necessary;
  • completing the legal documentation associated with the estate;
  • finding and collecting the assets of the deceased;
  • paying outstanding debts;
  • distributing the remainder of the estate to the beneficiaries.
Even for an uncomplicated will and a small estate, most executors arrange for a solicitor to perform these duties, with costs met by the estate.

This information has been obtained from the Readers Digest 'Legal Questions and Answers', 1996.