Drafting a will is one of those things that far too many Quincy residents put off for later. Part of this is simply trying to find the time in a busy week to deal with issues that seem so far removed from day-to-day life. Another part is simply not knowing where to begin, and wondering: what should be included in a basic will?

We’ll attempt to help demystify the contents of a basic will here on our Quincy legal issues blog. Hopefully, the information can assist our readers with getting started on this important step in estate planning. The discussion is intended as a general background only, and not as specific legal advice.

Before your heirs can receive anything, your estate must pay off its debts. A will should therefore begin by directing that your executor pay off things like your funeral expenses, any associated medical bills, and costs associated with estate administration itself, as well as any other “enforceable unsecured” debts. This terminology can help ensure that only those debts get paid that are absolutely necessary.

Next up is the section in which you’ll indicate how you want your property to be distributed. You may simply indicate that all of your “tangible personal property” should go to one person (e.g., a spouse). You may also list some exclusions if you want individual items to go to specific people. Your will can also direct that any insurance proceeds should go to your beneficiaries, so that if you die in a car accident or house fire, for example, your heirs will receive the insurance money instead of just the damaged or ruined property itself.

A legal professional can assist estate planners to ensure that these fundamental aspects of a will are clear, that other important considerations are included in the document. We will examine these additional matters in a follow-up post.