Basic Parts of a Last Will and Testament

What are the Essential Components of a Will?

A will is an essential document in a comprehensive Phoenix estate plan. In general, it lays out your final wishes. Below is a list of the basic components of a last will and testament.

  1. Revocation of Prior Wills

Your will should include a statement that all prior wills are being revoked. Under Arizona law, a new will revokes a previous will when a subsequent will revokes the previous will either expressly or by inconsistency. Including a properly worded sentence or two that expressly revokes previous wills makes sure that there is no confusion about what document should be used when you pass.

  1. Executor

The executor (also known as the personal representative) is the person who is in charge of administering your will. Basically they take care of winding up your final financial matters. Their responsibilities include making a list of your assets, distributing your property to the rightful beneficiaries, paying bills, and filing taxes.

You should pick someone you trust and who has the skills to serve this vital role. Your executor can be a family member, friend, or professional. They must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind. You should also name a backup in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to serve.

  1. Distribution of Assets

In your will, you should state who you want to receive your assets (your beneficiaries) and how assets should be distributed. Common beneficiaries include spouses, children, siblings, friends, and charitable organizations. It is important to be clear and specific in your instructions, so there is no doubt about your wishes. This section can also include instructions on how to pay off your debts.

You should include instructions for sentimental assets, as well as property that has financial value. For example perhaps you have a funny turquoise ring a granddaughter always admired. It may be of little financial value but maybe you and your granddaughter were together when you bought it and it is associated with that special time. You can specify that she get that ring and if you think it necessary, state why.

Your will should not include property that passes outside of probates, such as jointly owned property, beneficiary accounts, and life insurance policies. An experienced estate planning lawyer like Nicole Pavlik can guide you what to include and exclude.

  1. Guardianship for Minor Children

If you have minor children, you should name the individual that you want to take care of your child if you pass away. There are two types of guardianship in Arizona – guardianship of the person and guardianship of the property. The guardian of the person gets physical custody of the child and is responsible for their daily care. The guardian of the property manages the assets that were left to your minor child until they reach age 18.

You can choose different people or the same individual to serve in these roles. The guardian of the person should be someone who shares your parenting values and is financially stable. The guardian of the property, if different, should be someone who can be trusted and is financially skilled enough to manage the assets properly and responsibly till your child reaches age 18. You should discuss your decision with your chosen individual(s) ahead of time so you are confident that they are willing and able to serve in this important role. If you fail to name a guardian, the court will decide who will fulfill this role.

  1. Residuary Clause

A residuary clause states who receives any property not explicitly gifted elsewhere in the will. It works as a catch-all provision to ensure that your assets pass as you wish. For example, a simple residuary clause could read, “I leave all my other assets, not specifically gifted elsewhere in my will equally to my two children.”

A residuary clause is important because most individuals acquire additional assets after executing their will. Additionally, sometimes beneficiaries cannot accept their inheritance, including when they die before you. If you do not include a residuary clause, the property will be distributed according to Arizona’s intestate laws.

  1. No Contest Provision

A no-contest provision prohibits a someone who wants to challenge your will from receiving what they have been bequeathed, meaning they would be disinherited. However, in Arizona, no-contest clauses cannot penalize legitimate challenges to a will. This means that if there is a credible cause for challenging a will, these clauses are not enforceable.

Since an individual can challenge the will if there are reasonable grounds they could still receive their inheritance, even if they are not ultimately successful in their challenge. If you’re curious about how or if No-Contest Clauses might apply or be useful to you, discuss it with Attorney Pavlik.

Your Phoenix Estate Planning Attorney

Nicole Pavlik is an experienced Phoenix estate planning attorney who can help you create a comprehensive estate plan including a proper will that includes all necessary parts. If you have questions about wills, trusts, and estate planning, call Nicole Pavlik Law Firm today at (602) 635-6176 for a free consultation.