How to Create a Will: 7 Tips

Make sure your assets are distributed, and your legacy is passed down, in the way you want.

Wills are an effective way to ensure that your assets are distributed in the manner you want. Morgan Gearhart, Trust Advisor for Regions Private Wealth Management in Birmingham, Alabama, offers 7 tips to consider when you decide to draw up a will.

1. Gather all of your relevant documents that describe your assets, any beneficiaries named, and the type of ownership that applies to each asset.

2. Select your objective for your estate and confirm that your assets fit that plan. Consider factors like the liquidity and title of your assets, and any joint tenants with right of survivorship.

3. Consult with a competent attorney experienced in estate planning for advice in decision-making, drafting, and to note any gaps or inconsistencies in your will and estate plan. You will want to make sure you understand the legal requirements for a will in your state and whether your will should be drafted in a particular way to accomplish your goals.

4. Know what your will controls. For instance, you can designate how certain assets, such as personal property, are distributed. But your will probably doesn’t control assets like life insurance and IRAs that name a beneficiary on the policy or retirement account. It will also not control disposition of real estate property owned as joint tenants or tenancy by the entirety.

5. Take the time to make an educated decision on an executor/personal representative. This person is typically responsible for following the directives in the will, which includes the distribution of your assets. Have an alternative plan in place in case the individual passes away or any unexpected issues surface.

6. Take even more time to find the right guardian for your children — one of the most important decisions you make. This may be a separate individual from your trustee and executor, and you should have a backup person for this role too.

7. Review your will when a major life event occurs, such as the birth of a child, the marriage of a child, divorce, death of a spouse, or retirement. Also update your will to reflect significant changes in your assets and in tax law.

Remember that your will is just one part of your overall estate plan. You’ll also want to talk to your attorney about whether you should create a trust to better accomplish some or all of your property distribution objectives and whether now is a good time to execute an advance healthcare directive and power of attorney. These are all estate planning tools that are aimed at making sure your wishes become reality.

Learn more about keeping your estate plan up to date.


This information is general in nature and is provided for educational purposes only. Regions makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, timeliness, suitability, or validity of any information presented. Information provided and statements made by employees of Regions should not be relied on or interpreted as accounting, financial planning, investment, legal, or tax advice. Regions encourages you to consult a professional for advice applicable to your specific situation.