How Can I Do My Own Will?

By Teo Spengler

Less than half of American adults have wills. One reason for this low figure might be the common perception that wills are complicated and expensive to prepare. Although large and complex estates may require estate-planning services and legal advice, many people with smaller holdings use simple testaments. All jurisdictions accept self-drafted testaments that meet probate requirements. Some states -- such as California -- make it easy for people to draft their own wills by providing a valid form will in the statutes and allowing handwritten wills.

Less than half of American adults have wills. One reason for this low figure might be the common perception that wills are complicated and expensive to prepare. Although large and complex estates may require estate-planning services and legal advice, many people with smaller holdings use simple testaments. All jurisdictions accept self-drafted testaments that meet probate requirements. Some states -- such as California -- make it easy for people to draft their own wills by providing a valid form will in the statutes and allowing handwritten wills.

Step 1

Obtain a good form will, valid in your state. Ask your local law librarian whether your state has a statutory will and, if so, use that as your form will. Alternatively, look for a will form prepared by the state bar association or provided by the probate court. As a last resort, buy a form will from a reputable legal provider.

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Step 2

Fill in the initial blanks with your identifying information: name, date of birth and address. The early paragraphs specify that the testator -- you -- fulfills the age requirement in your state. Most but not all states require that a testator be 18. If you are under 18 years old, confirm that you are old enough to make a will in your state.

Step 3

Turn to the bequest section. Bequests are the core provisions of a will, specifying which heirs get what property. If you intend to list numerous heirs, be certain to identify each carefully, by full name and address; describe the property precisely as well. Give identifying numbers when appropriate; for example, use automobile license plate numbers to bequeath a vehicle and bank account numbers to reference a checking account. Do not feel obligated to include numerous heirs. It is equally valid to leave everything to one person. In that case, property identification becomes less important.

Step 4

Select the person to serve as guardian of your minor children. Insert her name and identifying information in the appropriate blank in the will. Consider appointing a separate financial guardian to supervise your children's financial affairs. Check the individual first to make sure she will accept the appointment.

Step 5

Name an executor for your will. The executor takes charge of your estate, gathering assets, paying bills and distributing the property according to the terms of your will. Confirm that the individual will accept the appointment.

Step 6

Execute your will according to state law. All states require that at least two adults witness a form will. Select witnesses who are not named in your will. Attest in the presence of the witnesses that the document you are signing is your last will and testament; then sign it while the witnesses watch. Each witness must sign the will in the appropriate blank below your signature. Insert the addresses and phone numbers of the witnesses below their signatures in case the probate court requires their testimony.

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How to Make a Will Early

References

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The executor pilots the last will and testament through probate. She takes charge of the estate of the deceased, files the will in probate court and administers the property through distribution. The probate court supervises the executor's actions -- from the time the will is filed in probate until final distribution of assets to heirs -- to assure honesty and accuracy. A valid will is a legal will. To provide a legal will for the executor after your death, draft and execute your will according to state requisites.

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How to Do Your Own Will

Few people enjoy contemplating death, which may explain why only two out of five Americans over the age of 45 have wills. But a will provides peace of mind. With a will, you choose your own heirs, whether they are family members, good friends or worthy associations. Without a will, the state distributes your property under the intestate laws to blood kin you may not like or even know. In a will, you name an executor for your estate and specify who is to care for your minor children should your spouse not survive you.

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