How to Prepare a Last Will

by Teo Spengler
Estate lawyers can give you legal and tax advice regarding your will.

Estate lawyers can give you legal and tax advice regarding your will.

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A valid will lets you control the disposition of your assets after you die; otherwise, state law distributes your property to next of kin. A valid will can name a guardian for your minor children and an executor for your estate. Your circumstances dictate what type of will you need: a simple will that you can do yourself works well for if you have little property or few heirs, but legal help may be appropriate if you have more complex holdings and many heirs.

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Step 1

Draft a complete list of your assets with identifying information. List things like real estate with street addresses and tax identification numbers; vehicles with license plate numbers; bank accounts with bank information; investment accounts with firm addresses; and jewelry, furs and heirlooms with notes describing where they are located. Lump personal property and house furnishings into general categories, and add them to the list. This list should provide a complete description of your holdings.

Step 2

Make a list of your potential heirs. Start with spouse, children, parents, siblings, cousins, grandparents and other family members. Add friends, neighbors, employees, godchildren -- anyone you care about or who is dependent on you financially. Include any church groups, associations, nonprofits or political associations to which you contribute or would like to. The list describes all persons and groups to whom you might make devises.

Step 3

Determine whether you need an attorney. Review both the list of assets and the list of potential heirs, and consider whether your estate faces tax issues. Decide whether you intend to disinherit any children. Any complexities of this nature usually mean that hiring experienced legal help is a good idea.

Step 4

Determine what property you will give to which heirs. Make an appointment with an estate attorney, if applicable, or fill in a form will. Identify yourself in the form where appropriate, fill in devises in the appropriate sections, and identify heirs by full name and address. Add your choice for guardian for your minor children and the executor of your will. Execute your will by signing in front of two adult witnesses who are not heirs under your will. The witnesses should sign below your signature.