Skip Nav

4 Things You Should Know Before You Make Your Own Will

Who inherits the good silver is just the beginning

❶Each state has rules about signing a will.

The Students We Serve

Join the Discussion


Student loan debt may put your financial security at risk. What a new AARP survey reveals. That might explain why so many adults avoid this cornerstone of estate planning. But creating a will is one of the most critical things you can do for your loved ones. The laws governing wills vary from state to state. Before you do, brush up on these 10 things you should know about writing a will. What is a will? A will is simply a legal document in which you, the testator , declare who will manage your estate after you die.

Your estate can consist of big, expensive things such as a vacation home but also small items that might hold sentimental value such as photographs.

The person named in the will to manage your estate is called the executor because he or she executes your stated wishes. A will can also serve to declare who you wish to become the guardian for any minor children or dependents, and who you want to receive specific items that you own — Aunt Sally gets the silver, Cousin Billy the bone china, and so on. Someone designated to receive any of your property is called a "beneficiary.

That usually means your estate will be settled based on the laws of your state that outline who inherits what. Probate is the legal process of transferring the property of a deceased person to the rightful heirs. Since no executor was named, a judge appoints an administrator to serve in that capacity. An administrator also will be named if a will is deemed to be invalid.

All wills must meet certain standards such as being witnessed to be legally valid. Again, requirements vary from state to state. An administrator will most likely be a stranger to you and your family, and he or she will be bound by the letter of the probate laws of your state. Do-it-yourself will kits are widely available. Conduct an Internet search for "online wills" or "estate planning software" to find options, or check bookstores and libraries for will-writing guides. In particular, separate wills allow for each spouse to address issues such as ex-spouses and children from previous relationships.

Ditto for property that was obtained during a previous marriage. Be very clear about who gets what. Probate laws generally favor the current spouse. The technical term is a disinterested witness. However, requiring the executor to post a bond can be expensive for the executor, depending on the size of your estate, and could prevent your chosen executor from serving.

Authorize the executor to act in your interest regarding your estate, debts, funeral expenses and other items. Sell any real estate in which you may own an interest at the time of your death and to pledge it, lease it mortgage it or otherwise deal with your real estate as you yourself would do. Pay all of your just debts, funeral expenses, taxes and estate administration expenses.

This allows your heirs to take their shares without later deductions or complications. State if your executor should post bond or serve without bond. If your executor must post a bond, the beneficiaries to the will are protected and insured if the executor fails to carry out the distribution as the will stipulates. Determine the assets you can legally bequeath. You may not actually be able to distribute all of your assets as you see fit, based on certain state laws and prior legal arrangements.

You should consider previous legal contracts you have entered, and whether you live in a common law or community property state. In common law states, anything with only your name on the deed, registration papers or other title documentation is yours to bequeath.

Alaska also allows couple to opt into a community property system if the couple so chooses. State the division of your assets. State the way in which your assets will be divided among people using percentages, which should add up to percent. For example, one line might read: To my mother, Barbara Smith, I bequeath five 5 percent.

Specify distribution of particular assets. If you want a beneficiary to receive a specific asset, you may state that as well. Then that particular asset will not be included in the percentages of your estate the remainder that is divided among other beneficiaries.

For example, one line may read: Include any addresses of real estate, descriptions of any personal property and full names of beneficiaries. Include provisions for beneficiaries dying before you. Designate a guardian to minor children. Your will should designate who will serve as the guardian to any minor children, if applicable, in the event of your death. You can also include conditional gifts in your will that are contingent upon something.

If the conditions specified as a prerequisite to receiving the gift are against any other laws, the court will not enforce them. You may choose to stipulate how your remains should be handled, where you will be buried, and how your funeral will be paid for.

Conclude the document with your signature, name, date and location. How you sign the will is a matter of state law and can affect its validity. Do not add any text after your signature. In many states, anything added below the signature will not be included as a part of the will. Sign your will in the presence of one or more witnesses. In many cases, the will must be signed in the presence of two witnesses, who then sign a statement asserting that you are of legal age and sound mind and that you signed your will in their presence.

Here are a few examples: In Illinois, a will must be signed by the testator and two witnesses. The witnesses should not be beneficiaries of the will. No notarization is required. In these cases, the witnesses and testator must all be present together and bear witness to all signatures.

Alternatively, the will can be signed and authorized in front of a notary, in which case no further witnesses are required. Or, as a third alternative, handwritten wills can be acknowledged by a court without need for witnesses or notarization. The UPC is an act drafted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws to standardize state laws governing wills and other matters related to estates.

It has been adopted in full by 17 states and in part by many other states. If your will does not meet the legal requirements, it will be found invalid and any property will pass under state laws governing the distribution of assets when someone does not have a will. Figure out how your state handles property allocation. States differ in terms of what to do if a person mentioned in your will dies before you.

Check with the American Bar Association to find out specifics for your state. For example, if you leave your house to your sister and she dies before you, the house could go to her children.

Another scenario would be that, when you die, the value of the course could be split among the still living beneficiaries. Do not alter the will after it has been signed.

The witnesses to your will testified to your capacity and acknowledged your decisions, but their signatures are invalid if the document is altered after the fact. Revisit your will if your assets change. If your assets change after you write the will, you should edit the will to include these changes, or execute a new will.

Make modest changes with a codicil. If you need to make minor changes, use a "codicil. Make substantial changes with a new will. Substantial changes should be made via a new will. It is not uncommon to replace a will if the first will is made at in early age. Somewhere in the will you will want to include directions about handling your death. These directions should include how you want your remains handled, where you want to be buried, and how you want the funeral to be paid for.

Decide how you will write your will. Before you start, you will need to decide whether you will hire an attorney, use an online resource, or write the will yourself. Be aware that state laws can change from year to year, so the process may be more complicated than you think.

Identify yourself in the will. Identify yourself by name, Social Security number, and address. You may also include your date of birth to further identify yourself. Make the required declaration. The first sentence of your will should introduce the document as your last will and testament. Nullify all previous wills.

This type of provision will ensure that any previous wills that you may have written are no longer valid. To do this you can write: Declare your mental wellbeing. Therefore, you should always include a statement that proves your soundness of mind.

Most often it is argued that a testator had dementia or another sickness that prevented him or her from understanding the effects of the will.

Include a statement of your intent to create the will. All dispositions made in your will must be made according to your wishes. This means you cannot have anyone influence your decisions in any way. To ensure the court knows you intended all the gifts you made, you should include a statement that looks like this: Write provisions that carry out your wishes. When you get to the body of your will, you will include all of your distributions. Write provisions that carry out your ideas you created when you prepared your will.

This includes who will get certain assets, who will get certain percentages of your estate, and who will get certain conditional gifts. This person will ensure that your will is followed. Because executors are so frequently asked to handle assets in a professional manner, you should try to select an individual with a background in business or law.

Sign your will in the presence of witnesses. Each state has rules about signing a will. In general, you will need to sign and date your will after it has been completed and after you have acknowledged its accuracy. In addition, you will have to sign the document in front of two witnesses who will have to sign a statement attesting to your legal capacity to enter into the agreement.

Store the will safely. Your will is not filed with the courts until after your death. Make sure that you store the will somewhere that can be found after your death. Consider storing your will in a safe at your home or in a safety deposit box at your bank. Many people give their wills to an attorney for safekeeping. Provide a copy to your executor.

If you trust your executor, you should consider giving them a copy to hold onto in addition to keeping the original somewhere safe.


Main Topics

Privacy Policy

How to Write a Will Yourself If you decide to write your own will, you’ll probably want some help creating your document, you’ll want to know what to include, and you’ll want to know how to make it legal.

Privacy FAQs

Writing your own will is a relatively straightforward process if your assets and bequests are also straightforward. In these circumstances, as long as you comply with the laws of your state, your will is likely to stand up in a court of law and be executed according to your wishes. You may want to include your social security number and.

About Our Ads

1. Decide if you want to get help or use a do-it-yourself software program. Consider either using an attorney or a reputable online software to help you write your . Apr 30,  · How to Write Your Own Last Will and Testament. A last will and testament is a legal document that dictates what happens to your possessions and assets once you pass away. fulfills a number of legal requirements. In the case of complicated estate, it may be best to have an attorney help you write the last will and testament. You may want 92%(K).

Cookie Info

Aug 17,  · Expert Reviewed. How to Write a Will. Five Parts: Sample Forms Preparing Your Will Writing Your Will Finalizing Your Will Changing Your Will Community Q&A A will is something that most people don't want to think about, especially when they're young. In fact, the typical person does not consider making out a will until 91%(57). 10 Things You Should Know About Writing a Will health care powers of attorney to ensure that your wishes are carried out while you're still alive," says Naomi Karp of AARP's Public Policy Institute. Should my spouse and I have a joint will or separate wills? You may also want to have your witnesses sign what's called a self-proving.