Important things to include in your will

Date: Oct 12, 2012

When you are estate planning, there are many things to consider, not the least of which is what to actually leave to your family, friends and charitable institutions.

First and possibly most importantly, you will want to consider any properties you own or are responsible for.

Under general circumstances, if you jointly own your home with your spouse or partner, then it isn't possible to leave your house to someone other than your spouse. A joint ownership means that it simply passes to the other owner upon your death; however if you are the last surviving owner, it should be stipulated what should be done with the property in your will.

Some things in your lives may have a more significant value than money alone, and you may wish to distribute them based on sentimental reasons or to honour certain loved ones. A comprehensive will should ensure that all your jewellery is catalogued and designated for ownership in accordance with your wishes, as you may wish to leave your mother's engagement ring to your daughter or leave your best watch to your son. Outlining these wishes clearly in writing under the advice of a trusted wills and estates lawyer can be a good way of preventing family disputes over treasured heirlooms in the event of your death.

A donation to a charitable organisation can be a wonderfully important and life - changing thing to do. If charitable contributions are an important consideration to you, you may want to build this into your estate planning process. This has the dual benefit of supporting a good cause, and may also have taxation advantages, which your lawyer can advise on.

Be sure that your finances are in order, because your estate is liable for any debts you may owe. If you do have any money owing, devise a plan so that your assets can, such as dividends from any shares, can be used to repay what you owe. This way, your family won't have to suffer the burden of paying debts on top of grieving your loss.

Be sure to include in your will any personal things such as items of sentimental value, old musical instruments and heirlooms that have been in the family for a long time.This could include art like paintings or sculptures as well as expensive glassware or crystal.