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Before you sit down to write your will, you need to know exactly what you plan to include in it.

Taking an inventory of all your assets can help with this process. It can also help you to identify what not to include.

Assets in trust

Perhaps you have not created a trust, so you think this does not apply to you. However, it may be that by doing so now, you can save your heirs money and time by skipping the probate process and avoiding estate taxes.

When you place assets in a trust, they are no longer part of your estate. At your death, those who you name as beneficiaries can immediately receive the assets you leave to them in the way that you choose to do so.

Retirement plans and life insurance benefits

Like a trust, your retirement plans and life insurance policy require you to name beneficiaries who will receive the money after your death. This money goes directly to them without becoming part of your estate.

Money in a payable-on-death bank account

As the name implies, the assets in a POD bank account automatically go to someone else when you die. When you open the account, you will be able to choose the beneficiary on the form.

Joint property

If you and your spouse own property together, such as the family home or other assets, these still belong to your spouse after you die, so you cannot leave them to your child in your will.

You may feel concerned that you have nothing to leave a child from another relationship outside of the assets you jointly own with your spouse. In this case, you may want to review alternatives that allow you to provide for your child, such as a life insurance trust.