How to Make a Will Without a Lawyer

by Brian Richards

    A lawyer is helpful in the will creation process because you can be confident that your will has been drafted according to your state’s laws. An attorney’s help is not essential, however. If you feel confident that you can navigate your state’s laws and express your wishes on paper in a clear and unambiguous way, you can make your own will. Each state has different formal requirements, but you may opt to comply with the laws of every state to help ensure that your will is valid.

    Step 1

    Start a new word processing document or begin writing in ink on a blank sheet of paper. No state is particularly picky about the precise form your will takes, but most require it to be printed in ink.

    Step 2

    Specify that the document you are creating is your will. Title the document “Last Will and Testament” and identify yourself on the first line by stating your name, city and state of residence, birth date, and your intent to create a final will.

    Step 3

    Identify your spouse or most recent ex-spouse by name if applicable. Also supply the date and location of the marriage or divorce.

    Step 4

    State the number of children you have who are currently living and supply their names. If any of your children are minors who will need care in the event of your death, state that you select a specific individual to act as your children’s guardian. Appoint one or two additional individuals who may act as alternate guardians.

    Step 5

    Appoint an individual to act as your estate’s personal representative. This individual will handle the legal processes involving your will and oversee the disposition of your assets to your beneficiaries. Appoint one or two additional individuals who may act as alternate personal representatives.

    Step 6

    Identify clearly any property you are giving away and the person whom you would like to receive the property. Be as descriptive as you can, stating the beneficiary’s full name and relationship to you. When describing property, do so in a way that will be unambiguous. For instance, provide the exact address of a house rather than just saying “my home.”

    Step 7

    Print your name, your current city and state of residence, and the date at the bottom of your document. Include a line for your signature. Below this line, create three additional areas for the names, addresses and signatures of your witnesses.

    Step 8

    Sign your will in front of three disinterested witnesses. A disinterested witness is someone who is not a named beneficiary in your will. After you have signed, have the witnesses provide their information and signatures on the appropriate lines.

    Tips & Warnings

    • If you have written any previous wills, include a line at the beginning of your will specifying that you revoke all previous wills and that the current will is the complete and final representation of your wishes.
    • State laws vary about how many witnesses you must have and whether the witnesses must be disinterested. Though many states allow for fewer witnesses, complying with the most stringent laws will help ensure that you are complying with your state's requirements. Nevertheless, you should consult your state’s probate code or retain the services of an attorney to verify that you are complying completely with your state’s laws.
    • Some states interpret certain life events to be automatic revocations of your previous will. Draft a new will whenever you marry, divorce or have a child.

    About the Author

    Brian Richards is an attorney whose work has appeared in law and philosophy journals and online in legal blogs and article repositories. He has been a writer since 2008. He holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology from University of California, San Diego and a Juris Doctor from Lewis and Clark School of Law.

    Photo Credits

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