Depending on the size of your estate – and how complicated it is – wills can get tricky. There’s a host of factors to consider, but there’s a few key components that every valid will needs to have. For a high-level overview, we narrowed it down to the five biggest pieces of the pie your will needs to have baked in (see what we did there?)
List your property and how you want it to be distributed
Your will needs to contain a complete list of all your property and assets – including real estate, vehicles, liquid assets, investments, stocks and bonds, retirement accounts – anything that you intend to leave to someone else. In addition to listing out all your assets, you need to clearly state who will be inheriting the property, and how you want your assets distributed if there are multiple parties you intend to leave inheritance too. Those you are leaving property to are called your beneficiaries.
List beneficiaries by name
Speaking of beneficiaries, every person you will be leaving assets to needs to be named explicitly in your will. Make sure you use full legal names. This is something you’ll want to keep updated. For example, if one of your children gets married and changes their name, you’ll want to make sure you update your will to reflect their legal last name. You’ll want to refrain from using nick names, and make sure to include full middle names as well to be cautious.
Your will must be in writing and signed by you
This one goes without saying, but your will must be in writing (even in your own handwriting), and it must be signed by you. The only caveat to signing your will is that you’ll need at least two witnesses present to validify that it is in fact you signing. These two people can be trusted friends, family members, or professional notary service.
Name an Executor
When you pass away, your will legally becomes your estate in the eyes of Virginia law. Within your will, you’ll want to specifically name an individual responsible for distributing your assets to your beneficiaries. This person is called your Executor. The Executor of your will should be someone you know well and trust. Often this is a spouse, child, close friend or family member.
List specific instructions for your Executor
You will need to list specific instructions for your Executor on how you want them to manage your estate after your passing. This include the distribution of your assets, but also anything like specific timeframes when assets should be released. For example, if you have minor children or grandchildren and want them to turn a certain age before receiving their inheritance, this should be included In your Executor’s instructions.