Contents of A Will
Every Will, whether a two page simple Will or a fifty page complex Will, is generally comprised of nine sections:
- an introduction, identifying whose Will it is;
- a statement revoking all prior Wills;
- a section naming family members;
- a section naming a personal representative (also called the executor) who is responsible for carrying out your wishes, as well as a declaration as to whether you will require this person to post a bond;
- a section bequeathing (giving) specific gifts to specific people;
- a residue clause that disposes of all property not specifically mentioned in the Will;
- a statement indicating how long a beneficiary must survive in order to receive a gift;
- a section directing the handling of your final remains; and
- the signature, witnessing, and attestation clauses.
Additionally, if the person making a Will has minor children, there should be a section nominating a guardian for minor children.
The first four sections are pretty straight forward, and are discussed below.
The introduction to a Will identifies who is writing the Will. It should state your full name, birthday, and the town where you are now living.
“I, (insert name), born (insert DOB) and a resident of (insert town), Alaska, declare this to be my Will, revoking all prior Wills and Codicils.”
The Revocation Section
It is not uncommon for people to write several Wills during their lifetime, so it is important to make it very clear that you are revoking any previous Wills and that this Will expresses all of your wishes as to how you want your property divided after you die.
“I, (insert name), born (insert DOB) and a resident of (insert town), Alaska, declare this to be my Will, revoking all prior Wills and Codicils.”I, *, born * and a resident of *, Alaska, declare this to be my Will, revoking all prior Wills and Codicils.
This section is very important to ensure that your Will is honored as written. Remember, one of the factors used to establish whether you were of “sound mind” when you signed your Will is whether you were able to fully identify your family.
The court wants to know who your family is, so that no one can suggest that you overlooked someone in the gift section. If you want to “disinherit” someone, you can do so, but you should still include that person here. What is important is that the court knows that at the time you signed your Will, you knew who your family was, and that your gifts were intentional. So, you should identify every person to whom you have been married, and if that marriage has ended, how and when the marriage ended. You should also identify your children, their birthdays, where they live (if you know), and whether they are natural, adopted, or step-children.
I am presently married to *. I was previously married to *, whom I divorced.
I have the following living children: * of *Anchorage (DOB *); * of *Bethel (DOB *); and * of *Eek (DOB *).
I have four deceased children, namely *.
In this example, you would fill in your personal information where there is an asterisk (*).
Naming a Personal Representative
The personal representative (also known as the executor) is the person who administers your estate. This is the person who will handle your business and put your affairs in order after you die. He or she will pay your debts from your estate and distribute your belongings according to your Will. The personal representative is not personally responsible for paying the debts of the estate out of his or her pocket.
When deciding who to choose, the most important thing is to choose a person you trust, as well as a person who is willing to serve. Since this person may have to work with a lot of people in Alaska, it is recommended that the personal representative be a resident of Alaska.
The law requires a personal representative to post a bond, unless the Will waives that requirement. A bond is basically an insurance policy that protects heirs if a personal representative mismanages the estate. Generally, we recommend that you waive the bond requirement for your personal representative, since the requirement can be expensive and bond can sometimes be difficult to secure.
“I nominate my husband (insert name of husband) of (insert address) as executor of this Will, to serve without bond. If he fails to survive me or otherwise does not serve in such capacity, I nominate my daughter (insert name) as my executor. The term "my executor" as used in this will shall include any personal representative of my estate.”