How to Execute a Last Will and Testament

by David Carnes
Wills are authenticated and interpreted by special probate courts.

Wills are authenticated and interpreted by special probate courts.

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A last will and testament is a document used to distribute the property after the property owner dies. The person who creates the will, known as the testator, must not only clearly state his intended distribution of property, he must also execute the will in legally valid form. Although exact procedures vary from state to state, common features are found in every state. Check the law of your state for exact procedures and have an attorney look over your will before you sign it.

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Step 1

Type out your will. A handwritten will, known as a holographic will, is not accepted as valid in many states. In addition, ambiguities in your handwriting have the potential to trigger disputes.

Step 2

Confirm, in the text of your will, that you are at least 18 years old and mentally competent. Initial the blank space to the left or right of this paragraph in your own handwriting.

Step 3

Select the executor of your will and name him in the text of your will. It is best to select an executor who is not named as an heir in your will. You might choose to select a backup executor should the first named executor is unable to perform the duties.

Step 4

Number each page of the will and initial the upper-right-hand corner of every page in your own handwriting. This makes it difficult for anyone to add, remove or replace pages.

Step 5

Select two or three people to witness the signing of your will (the exact number varies from state to state). None of the witnesses should be heirs or beneficiaries to your estate.

Step 6

Create a signature line with your full name typed underneath the line. Create similar signature lines for the people you have chosen to witness the signing of your will.

Step 7

Sign and date the will on the signature line, in your own handwriting, in the presence of your witnesses. Have the witnesses sign and date the will in the presence of a notary public and have the notary public stamp and sign the will. Everyone must present a government-issued photo ID to the notary public. Although notarization is not required in most states, it helps avoid disputes over the validity of signatures.

Step 8

Deliver your will (the original document, not a photocopy) to your executor for safekeeping or put it in a safe deposit box and authorize your executor to access the safe deposit box.