An inventory of your assets is a good start, but it's not the only information you need to create a will. You also need a list of family members and other beneficiaries (e.g.,charities) that you may mention in your will, an estimate of your outstanding debts, and an outline of your objectives (e.g., to provide college tuition for my grandchildren). Use this information to consider how you want to distribute your assets.
Ask yourself lots of questions: Is it important to pass my property to my heirs in the most tax-efficient manner? How much money will my grand child need for college? Do I need to provide for a child who has a disability? An attorney familiar with estate planning will help you identify the questions and guide you in determining the answers.
Specific bequests are those in which you name a specific beneficiary to receive a specific sum of money or a specific item or property (e.g., $10,000; my furnished residence at 10 Elm St.; my entire coin collection). Specific bequests may also be made to charities, although the tax consequences of the two maybe different.
Be as specific as possible when naming beneficiaries. For example, state the person's full name as well as his or her relationship to you (child, cousin, friend) so your executor will know your intentions. Clarity will help to prevent challenges to your will.
Items not specifically mentioned need to be addressed in a catch all clause of your will called a residuary clause, which generally states, "I give the remainder of my estate to.. ." Without this clause, items not specifically mentioned will likely be distributed in accordance with state law.
Note that the estate usually pays outstanding debts before beneficiaries receive their shares. You may want to clear up debts that you think maybe a problem, or make specific provisions for payment of those debts in your will.
States require that you sign the will in front of witnesses; the number of witnesses varies by state. Witnesses should not be beneficiaries of the will, and only one copy should be signed.
If you need help finding a qualified estate planning attorney, the website of the American Bar Association (www.abanet.org ) has information to help you find one, although they will not make specific recommendations.
(SOURCE: Federal Citizens Information Center)