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Sometimes when speaking with clients, the question arises, “Does my will need to list all of my property?” The answer is no. In fact, unless you plan on making very specific bequests—“my car to my sister; my stereo to my brother; my CD collection to my neighbor” etc.—it is normally not necessary or desirable to do so. Anything not specifically mentioned in your will becomes part of your residuary estate.

If you simply desire to leave your entire estate to one person or divide it among a few people, it is often best to do so by naming your heirs simply as the recipients of your residuary estate. Since your residuary estate is everything not specifically named in your will, if you do not make any specific bequests, it is simply everything.

Sometimes, however, individuals make a will that merely names who is to receive specific pieces of property but does not specify the recipient of the residue of their estate. Where a will names beneficiaries for neither every piece of property nor the residuary estate, any property for which a beneficiary is not named will pass according to the intestacy statute, which, as mentioned in a previous post, provides the following priorities for intestate succession:

  1. Children
  2. Spouse of more than three years (otherwise 50% to spouse)
  3. Parents
  4. Brothers and sisters or, if they are predeceased, their descendants
  5. Grandparents or, if they are predeceased, their descendants
  6. Aunts and uncles or, if they are predeceased, their descendants
  7. Great-grandparents or, if they are predeceased, their descendants
  8. Great-aunts and uncles or, if they are predeceased, their descendants
  9. The remaining half to a surviving spouse of less than three years
  10. The county

Naming a recipient of the residuary estate is therefore always desirable.

See Also:

“Do I Need a Will?”
When an Heir Predeceases the Testator


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