A comprehensive will is the cornerstone of a smart estate planning strategy. This legal document establishes your wishes for the distribution of your property and assets after your death and names a guardian for any children younger than 18. 

When writing your will, make sure to include these items: 

An executor 

Your will should name an executor who will be responsible for carrying out your final wishes. You can choose an attorney or financial institution or name a trustworthy friend or family member. Consider naming an alternate executor in case your first choice declines or cannot fulfill these duties. The language in the will should give the executor the power to settle your affairs, including property distribution and payment of outstanding debts. 

Specific bequests 

In this section, list property and assets, along with a designated beneficiary for each. As with the executor, you may want to name an alternate beneficiary for each item. Examples of specific bequests include real estate, cash, investments, collections, family heirlooms and other personal property. This category does not cover retirement accounts, insurance policies or payable on death bank accounts. 

Guardian for minor children 

If you are a parent of young children, you should name the person who should care for them in the event of your death, provided that the other parent cannot do so. This section should also name a custodian or trustee to manage accounts and assets your minor children will inherit. 

Witness signatures 

In Pennsylvania, you must sign your will in front of at least two witnesses, who must then sign the document in front of you. However, the state does not require notarization of a will for the document to be legally valid. 

Once you create your will, place one signed copy in a fireproof safe in your home. Give another signed copy to your attorney, executor or another trusted family member. If you put the will in a safe deposit box, your family may need a court order to retrieve the document after you die.