by: Begley Law Group

by Thomas D. Begley, Jr., Esquire, CELA, Marianne Johnston, Esquire, and Emily M. Schurr, Esquire

When thinking about preparing a Will, most people simply decide to leave their estate to their spouse and, if the spouse fails to survive, then to their children.  Your legacy plan deserves more thoughtful consideration as you have worked a lifetime to build your estate.  Here are 20 items to consider in preparing your Will.


  1. Do you want to make a gift to your grandchildren in your Estate Planning documents? Such a bequest may be modest but reflects the special bond between grandchildren and grandparents.
  2. Gifts or Loans to Children. Have you made gifts or loans to any of your children during your lifetime that you need to equalize in your Will?
  3. Tax Considerations. Will your estate or bequests be subject to federal estate, state estate, or state inheritance taxes?
  4. Bloodline Trust. Would you like to keep the money you are leaving your children in your bloodline and protect the inheritance from your children’s creditors or divorcing spouses?
  5. Blended Families. Does either spouse have children by a previous marriage or relationship?  Do you want to take steps to protect those children?  Do you want your current spouse’s children to share in your estate?
  6. Do any of your intended beneficiaries, such as a spouse, child, or grandchild, suffer from a disability or mental illness?  Are they receiving or could they receive public benefits, such as Social Security, Medicaid, Section 8 Housing, SNAP (Food Stamps), or DDD benefits?
  7. Trust Beneficiary. Are you the beneficiary of a trust established by someone else, such as a parent, spouse, or friend?
  8. Different Treatment for Different Children. Do you want to treat all of your children the same?  Do you want to leave larger sums to some rather than others?  Do you want to disinherit any of your children, grandchildren, or stepchildren?
  9. Payable on Death (POD) or Transfer on Death (TOD) Accounts. Do you have any accounts that are POD or TOD?  If so, are they payable to your intended Will beneficiaries in the proportions you would like your beneficiaries to receive?
  10. Out-of-State Real Estate. Do you own out-of-state real estate?  Do you want to avoid probate in that state?
  11. Business Ownership. Do you own a business?  If so, do you have a business succession plan?
  12. Would you like to leave anything to a charity or charities?  Can you name the charities as beneficiaries of your retirement plan?  Doing so may save significant income tax.
  13. Children Adopted, Step, or Born Out-of-Wedlock. Do you or any members of your family have adopted children, stepchildren, or children born out-of-wedlock?  If so, do you want to include or exclude these children?  Do you consider them your descendants?
  14. Protecting Your Home. If you are age 75 or older, or if you are under that age and have a medical diagnosis, would you like to protect your home if you need long-term care in the future?
  15. Long-Term Care Insurance. Do you have long-term care insurance?
  16. Umbrella Liability Policy. Do you have an umbrella liability policy?
  17. Disability Insurance. Do you have disability insurance?
  18. Retirement Account. Do you have a retirement account?  If so, are you familiar with The Secure Act and The Secure Act 2.0?  Who are the beneficiaries of your retirement accounts?
  19. Non-Probate Assets. Life insurance, annuities, retirement accounts, POD accounts, TOD accounts, and jointly owned assets are non-probate assets.  This means they do not pass under your Will.  Do you have primary and contingent beneficiaries on all of your accounts?  Are they coordinated with your overall estate plan?
  20. Financial Advisor. Do you work with a financial advisor?  If so, has your financial advisor prepared a written Investment Policy Statement (IPS) for you?