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Making a Will: What Property to Include

When making a will, first inventory all of your assets to make sure you don't forget anything. Here's how.

By , Attorney
Nolo Nolo

When making a will, you need to know which kinds of property pass through a will (and probate) and which don't. Property that does not pass through your will should not be included in your will. As for the property you should include, below is an overview of how to capture all of the property you own.

Inventory Your Valuable Assets

Before making a will, it is a good idea to take inventory—writing down the valuable or meaningful items of property you own. See the categories below to jog your memory. Even if you plan to leave everything to your spouse or children, making a list will keep you from overlooking things.

Types of Property to Include in Your Will

Here is a list of the kinds of property you should think about when planning your estate. Not every type of property listed here will pass through your will. Some types of property, such as retirement accounts with designated beneficiaries, won't need to be in your will, and can cause added confusion if included. This list is simply provided to help you inventory your property.

Animals/Pets

Antiques

Appliances

Art

Books

Business interests

  • Sole proprietorship
  • Partnership
  • Corporation
  • LLC
  • Limited partnership

Business property (if you own a sole proprietorship)

Cameras and photo equipment

Cash accounts

  • Certificates of deposit
  • Checking
  • Money market funds

Savings

China, crystal, and silver

Coins and stamps

Collectibles

Computers

Copyrights, patents and trademarks

Electronic equipment

Furniture

Furs

Jewelry

Precious metals

Real estate

  • Agricultural land
  • Boat/marina dock space
  • Co-ops
  • Condos
  • Duplexes
  • Houses
  • Mobile homes
  • Rental property
  • Time-shares
  • Undeveloped land
  • Vacation houses

Retirement accounts

Royalties

Securities

  • Bonds
  • Commodities
  • Mutual funds
  • Stocks
  • U.S. bills, notes and bonds

Tools

Vehicles

  • Bicycles
  • Cars
  • Motorcycles
  • Motor homes/RVs
  • Planes
  • Boats

When you're ready to make your will, you can find an estate planning attorney in your state, or you can use a reputable service such as WillMaker to create a will that's valid in your state.

Passing on Helpful Details About Your Property

When you're inventorying your property, keep in mind that there are many things about your property that your survivors will need to know. Usually, these types of details do not belong in your will. For example:

  • passwords to online accounts,
  • the location of some items
  • the location of ownership, warranty, and appraisal papers
  • the value of some items—especially if they have special significance
  • directions for maintaining the property, and
  • details about caring for your pets.

Consider also whether you can provide your executor (the person who is in charge of distributing your property to your loved ones) with any information that will make their job easier. You can leave an informal letter for your executor that provides these details, or you can make a more systematic document, such as the Information for Caregivers and Survivors document provided with WillMaker.

Getting organized now can make a big difference in minimizing the costs and delays of distributing your property after your death, not to mention the headaches of your loved ones.

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