Have you given any thought to the types of things you want to leave behind when you die? It’s a morbid thought and maybe you have not considered it at all. Maybe you don’t think you have anything of worth to leave to your loved ones. However, you would be surprised at how rich your legacy may be to your loved ones. What should be in your will?

The Who

We like to use scenarios in our articles because we see so many real life situations and it helps our readers realize that although their case is unique, there are some aspects which still ring true. We will follow through this article with a scenario about a woman named Sam.

Sam is married to Bob. He has 2 children from a previous marriage. Both children lived with Sam and Bob and are now grown. Sam and Bob have a complicated relationship with one of the children so they have held off getting a Will, thinking that the child who is in contact with them will just receive everything when they “go”. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, without having a Will, Sam is leaving her legacy open to the whims of the court. This is what we call “intestate”. At best, Sam should have a Will determining who gets what when she passes. Bob should have the same. For this article, we are going to focus solely on Sam.

Sam decides she wants to leave everything to her husband unless he pre-deceases. If he does, she wants to leave everything to her step-son and her nephew. She wants to be sure that someone takes care of any dogs they may have and she wants to be sure to leave enough to maintain her rose garden for the duration of the time he owns the home. She wants to be sure the other step-son cannot take anything. She basically wants to leave it where it cannot be challenged.

Sam’s situation is a bit unique because we will need to find out if she adopted her step-sons. How long did they live with her? Did they have a relationship with their biological mother? All of these things will be important when we consider how to structure the language of the Will so that she “leaves out” the one step-son and gifts to the other.

Of Dogs and Roses

Sam has believed for so long that she has nothing of value to leave behind that we will need to do a full catalog of her possessions to determine her property. Once she begins to put pen to paper, she realizes there are things that really matter to her. We know that she has a home with a rose garden that she spends a great deal of time with as a hobby. Are these prized or heirloom roses? Is she part of a garden club? This type of thing may matter if there is to be a future sale of the property.

She also has 3 dogs and these are like her children. Although she may outlive these three dogs, it stands to reason that she may have other dogs later because she’s always had dogs in her life.

What types of items does she have in her home? Is she a collector? Does she have jewelry or coins? How about vintage items? Has she saved her photos and other legacy items onto a cloud or other location for safekeeping? These are all part of her history and it should be passed on.

The Why

After we have determined who will receive and what they will receive, we will determine why we need to structure her Will in a specific way. This will help us make it as challenge free as we possibly can. We will explore why she wants to put certain provisions in, such as maintaining her rose garden or the care for her dogs and how she wants to do those things. The answers to her Why questions will lead us to the how we will best set up her Will.


The best way to accomplish Sam’s goals are to use an experienced Estate lawyer. We specialize in creating full Estate plans for individuals or families. Jason has years or experience working with a variety of unique situations. Contact Jason here for more information on starting your plan.