How to Prepare a Will

By Teo Spengler

A will is a document in which a person describes the management and distribution of her estate after her death. Per common law, a "will" disposed of real property while a "testament" disposed of personal property, but today the courts use the terms interchangeably. No state requires a will, but persons dying without wills cede to the state all decisions about estate distribution. With a will, a testator makes her own inheritance decisions, selects an appropriate executor for her estate, and names a guardian to raise her minor children in the event of her death.

A will is a document in which a person describes the management and distribution of her estate after her death. Per common law, a "will" disposed of real property while a "testament" disposed of personal property, but today the courts use the terms interchangeably. No state requires a will, but persons dying without wills cede to the state all decisions about estate distribution. With a will, a testator makes her own inheritance decisions, selects an appropriate executor for her estate, and names a guardian to raise her minor children in the event of her death.

Step 1

Know your assets. Write out a list of your holdings, including bank accounts, cash, life insurance policies and real estate holdings. Add valuable personal property such as fine art, jewelry, old books and antiques. Include livestock, vehicles and heirlooms. If it is valuable to you, put it on the list. Specific identification as well as data about asset location promotes swift estate distribution.

Protect your loved ones by a legally binding will. Make a Will Online Now

Step 2

Determine your devises. The core of a will is the section specifying which heirs get what property. Use clear identifying information to describe assets and complete names and addresses to describe heirs. If you condition a bequest -- for example, leave everything to your spouse if he is alive at the time of your death -- include alternative beneficiary information. Simplify if you can; consider an attorney for complex estates.

Step 3

Disinherit any relatives you do wish to include as heirs. Few states impose any restrictions whatsoever on disinheriting spouses or adult children. Make clear in your will your intention to disinherit by specifically naming the person, together with identifying information and devising him $1. Failure to name a child you wish to disinherit may lead a court to assume you forgot that child, and forgotten children may be able to claim an equitable share of the estate.

Step 4

Name trusted individuals to serve as executor of your estate and guardian of your minor children. An executor administers your estate after you die, collecting assets, locating heirs and dividing the property after estate bills are paid. A guardian raises your minor children. Consider a separate financial guardian for minor children to handle their inheritances until they reach majority. Banks often serve in this role.

Step 5

Execute your will according to state law. Most states require that two of-age witnesses watch you sign the will and sign after your name. Choose disinterested witnesses who do not stand to inherit under your will. Some states preclude a spouse from serving as a witness.

Protect your loved ones by a legally binding will. Make a Will Online Now
How to Write a Will for Property

References

Related articles

How to Prepare to Make a Will

Because a will is effective only upon death, it stands as your last statement to the world. A will contains final instructions, disposes of your property, names a guardian for your minor children and appoints an executor for your estate. Although you can modify your will during your lifetime, upon your death the terms are fixed and unalterable. Paying attention to preliminary details ensures that your final statement represents your true intentions. Consulting an attorney will ensure proper distribution of property

How to Make a Will with Beneficiaries

A will is a legal document and special vocabulary applies to virtually every step of the drafting process. The document itself is often termed "last will and testament;" the person drafting the will is known as the testator. In a will, the testator makes "devises" or "bequests" her property to selected persons or entities, termed "heirs" or "beneficiaries." Since a central purpose of a will is to name heirs, the process of "making a will with beneficiaries" is neither more nor less than that of making a will.

How to Write a Last Will & Testament

A testamentary will -- redundantly termed a "last will and testament" by lawyers -- is a document stating your conscious and deliberate choices as to the disposition of your property after you die. The simplicity or complexity of your will depends upon the property you hold and the heirs you wish to include. Simple wills require only a qualified testator -- or will maker -- testamentary instructions and proper execution.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help.

Related articles

How to Write a Last Will

Fewer than half of American adults have a last will and testament, according to the American Bar Association. One ...

How to Make Your Own Legal Will

It is not that hard to cook up a legal will. Take one testator, over the age of 18 and of sound mind. Add a good dose ...

What to Include in a Last Will & Testament

While you will enjoy unlimited freedom to revise your last will and testament during the course of your lifetime, any ...

How to Prepare a Last Will

A valid will lets you control the disposition of your assets after you die; otherwise, state law distributes your ...

Browse by category