Someone asked me what gets included in a basic Will. The first thing a Will sets out is who is to be the executor to handle all the matters of the estate and make sure the tax filings are done, and who is the alternate executor in case for some reason the primary person is unable to administer the estate.
The next thing it will do is set out who should be the guardian of any minor children, and an alternate in case that person is unable or unwilling to be guardian. Some people might wish to name their sister and her husband, or perhaps some close friends who are a couple. I always suggest naming one person and not the couple as the guardian as you do not want your kids getting wrapped up in someone else’s divorce should they split up.
The last main thing in a basic Will is who will receive the residue that is left after all debts and taxes are paid off. A “usual” basic Will leaves everything to a spouse and failing that, divided equally among the children. It might set out at which ages children receive their inheritance, such as 1/3 at each of age 25, 30 and 35, with the ability to use the money before age 35 for their maintenance, benefit and education at the executor’s discretion (this is a good reason for having executors and guardians be different people so that these decisions are made carefully by two people with the kids’ best interests in mind). If you don’t set out the ages at which children receive their inheritance they will receive it all at the age of majority (19 in British Columbia) which I have seen lead to the situation where the child and their friends have some great nights out on the town for a year or two and then there’s nothing left for their education or down payment on a home. (as a side note, if someone dies without a Will any inheritance due to their children would be given to the children at the age of majority)
I recommend a “if all fails” clause for who would inherit in the case of a scenario where something happened to the spouse and the kids, generally people name their siblings or nieces and nephews as the ultimate beneficiaries in that remote scenario.
Of course there are all kinds of things that can be added to a Will, though it’s always wise to be careful not to make the Will too complicated and risk that it is confusing and leave the executor being unsure of your wishes, as you won’t be there to answer their questions if they are not 100% certain of what you mean for them to do.