Writing your will is one of the most important things you can do to protect your assets and property and is essential to your estate planning process. A valid will can also speed up the probate process and ensure your beneficiaries receive their bequests.

Name an executor—The most important move you can make when drafting your will is choosing the right executor. They should be a trusted person or third party, such as a bank, who is capable of handling the job of managing your estate. If you choose a third-party executor, know that it may cost your estate from 1-5 percent, depending on the total size of your estate.

Identify yourself—Start with providing identifying information. Include your name and address and be sure to include the date you sign the will. Also state that the document is your last will and testament and that it supersedes any previous wills.

Name your beneficiaries—Specify who you wish to provide gifts, assets or property in your will. Beneficiaries are typically family members but can also include friends, nonprofit organizations or charities.

List alternate beneficiaries—Because life doesn’t always go as planned, you should the extra step of protecting your assets by listing alternate beneficiaries, in the event the original recipient passes away before you do.

Business and personal assets—Ensure that personal assets are clearly divided among your beneficiaries and include instructions for whether you want property kept as is or liquidated and disbursed. Determining the allocation of business assets may require some extra work, so check with an estate planning lawyer for advice before finalizing your will.

Pets are property—Pets are considered personal property in Florida.  Include the name of the party who agreed to care for your pets and state if you want to provide them with a set amount of funds for vet bills, food, and other needs.

Cancel debts owed to you—You can use your will to relieve people of any debts they owe you, or your survivors.

Paying debts or expenses—Describe how you want your beneficiaries to settle your debts. Make sure that you have specified a bank account to use to settle debts and cover final arrangements and expenses like estate and inheritance taxes, costs related to probate, and funeral expenses.

Remaining property—In the event you have assets remaining after you specify your beneficiaries, be sure to include instructions for handling the remainder of your estate.

Maintenance of real estate—If you want to leave your home or real estate to a specific beneficiary, provide specific instructions for care and maintenance of your home in the will.

If you’re ready to start the process of writing a valid will and need a hand navigating Florida estate planning laws, check with an experienced family law attorney in your area.