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What are the basic elements to include in a will?

Every adult should put together -- at the very least -- a basic estate plan. At its most basic, an estate plan will be made up of a simple will. Fortunately, these documents are easy to create and most California residents will be able to type one up in no time.

A simple will needs to state who you are, while providing enough identify information to ensure that the will is definitely for you, and that it is definitely your will. The will should also list your beneficiaries -- they could be people, charities or some other kind of institutions. When listing beneficiaries, their addresses, contact information and/or birth dates should be included in order to identify them.

The name of your executor should also be listed. This person will be responsible for ensuring that your wishes included in the will are carried out to the letter. A backup executor should also be appointed, just in case your first choice cannot perform the duties.

Make sure that anyone who you name as executor and backup executor is up for the responsibility. This will avoid any complications that could come up if he or she does not want to serve in this capacity.

You will also want to include instructions about who should care for your children and/or anyone else you might be legally responsibility for. Also, your will should indicate how your assets shall be distributed after you have died.

Finally, you should type up or print your will from a computer. A will that is written by hand, or a will that is spoken aloud, comes with chance of serious problems later on down the road. Therefore, it is always advisable to type the document up.

While it is certainly possible to draft your will by yourself, having a professional lawyer review your will or draft it for you can help your heirs avoid a lot of potential for problems.

Source: Dummies, "What to Include in a Simple Will," N. Brian Caverly and Jordan S. Simon, accessed Oct. 23, 2015

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