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What to Include in a Simple Will

Almost always, a simple will is the will of choice for you. A simple will is a single legal document that applies only to you (unlike a joint will for you and your spouse). A simple will describes

  • Who you are, with enough information to clearly identify that document as your will.

  • The names of your beneficiaries, both people — whether those people are family members or not — and institutions, such as charities, and enough information about the beneficiaries, such as their addresses and birth dates so whoever is reading your will can figure out to whom you are referring.

  • The name of the person you’re appointing to be the executor — the person who is legally responsible for making sure that your directions are carried out — of your will. You also need to appoint a backup executor in case, for any reason, your designated executor is unable to perform the official duties (sounds like the Miss America Pageant!).

    Always check with whomever you specify as an executor or backup executor in your will before putting that person’s name in your will. You want to avoid unnecessary complications that may arise if that person is unwilling or unable to serve as your will’s executor.

  • Your directions as to who will care for your children or for anyone else you are legally responsible.

  • How you want your assets distributed, and to whom, after you are gone.

Your simple will should be typewritten — a term that comes from the days of old-fashioned typewriters but which also applies to a printed and produced document by a computer and printer. Other forms of your will, such as written in your own handwriting or spoken, are usually filled with problems and shouldn’t be used.

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