12 Provisions in Your Last Will & Testament That You May Need

September 26, 2023
Erin Calpin, Esq.

In the realm of estate planning, a Last Will and Testament stands as a testament to an individual's meticulous consideration of the future. As life's journey unfolds, ensuring that one's assets and legacy are entrusted to the right hands becomes a paramount concern. Within this legal document lie provisions of profound significance, each one strategically crafted to navigate the complex labyrinth of posthumous affairs. From the designation of beneficiaries to the establishment of guardianship for dependents, the inclusion of these provisions stands as a beacon of clarity in a time of uncertainty, a personalized roadmap that guides the fulfillment of wishes, the preservation of values, and hopes of ensuring tranquility for those left behind.

What is a Last Will & Testament?

A Last Will and Testament, often referred to simply as a "will," is a legally binding document that outlines an individual's wishes and instructions regarding the distribution of assets, property, and personal belongings after death. It serves as a means to express how an individual wants his or her estate to be managed and divided among beneficiaries, ensuring that intentions are followed in a systematic and organized manner. Additionally, a will can include other crucial provisions such as the appointment of an executor to oversee the process of estate administration, the designation of guardians for minor children, and specific directives for funeral arrangements or charitable donations. By writing a Last Will and Testament, an individual can take an active role in shaping his or her posthumous legacy, and provide clarity and guidance to loved ones during a challenging time.

What Provisions Should You Always Have in a Last Will & Testament?

It’s important to understand that the will for every person is going to be different. However, here are some provisions commonly found in wills:

1. Executor Appointment: Designate an executor who will be responsible for carrying out the instructions in your will, managing your estate, and distributing assets.

2. Beneficiary Designations: Clearly specify who will receive your assets, whether they are individuals, organizations, or charities. Be specific in naming beneficiaries to avoid confusion.

3. Asset Distribution: Outline how your assets, including property, investments, and personal possessions, should be distributed among your beneficiaries. You can allocate percentages or specific items.

4. Guardianship for Minors: If you have minor children, designate a guardian who will take care of them in case both parents pass away before the children reach adulthood.

5. Trust Provisions: If you wish to establish a trust for the management and distribution of assets, you can include instructions on how the trust should operate, who the beneficiaries are, and designate a Trustee.

6. Debts and Taxes: Specify how any outstanding debts, taxes, and expenses should be paid from your estate before distribution to beneficiaries.

7. Contingent Beneficiaries: In case a primary beneficiary predeceases you, designate secondary or contingent beneficiaries to ensure that your assets are distributed as intended.

8. Disinheritance Clause: If you wish to exclude a specific individual from inheriting any of your assets, you may include a clause explaining your decision.

9. Funeral and Burial Wishes: You can express your preferences for your funeral or memorial service and burial or cremation to provide guidance to your loved ones.

10. Witness and Notary Requirements: Most jurisdictions require wills to be signed by two witnesses to be valid.  In order to have a self-proving will, so that the witnesses do not have to be located to prove the will, the will should also be notarized.  Most jurisdictions have specific provisions that must be included to have a valid, self-proving will, so it is important to follow the requirements of your jurisdiction.  An experienced estate planning attorney can help with that requirement.

It's essential to keep your will up to date, especially after significant life events such as marriages, divorces, births, deaths, and changes in financial circumstances. Consulting an attorney experienced in estate planning will help you create a comprehensive and legally valid Last Will and Testament tailored to your specific situation and jurisdiction.

When you partner with BMC Estate Planning, you can rest assured that we will review every detail of this important document with you to ensure that it meets the goals that you have for your overall estate plan. Regardless of whether you’re interested in setting up a will for the first time or you have had a recent life change that may have altered the terms of your will, our team will walk you through the process with as little stress as possible. Get in touch with us today to learn more!


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Borenstein, McConnell & Calpin, P.C. is a Wills & Estate Planning law firm serving Central and Northern New Jersey, as well as New York City. We strive not only to give you a great client experience, but to become your trusted adviser for life. To reach Alec, please send an email to alec@bmcestateplanning.com.

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