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.
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.
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.
Business property (if you own a sole proprietorship)
Cameras and photo equipment
China, crystal, and silver
Coins and stamps
Copyrights, patents and trademarks
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.
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:
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.