A will can be drawn up by the testator, or person to whom the will belongs. It can also be drawn up by an attorney. In either case, consider carefully any property and debts you may have, and who you want to leave your property to when you die. Consulting an attorney can help even if you ultimately choose to draw up your will yourself.
Create an affordable will with LegalZoom
Start by making lists of your major assets and liabilities, or debts. Include how much equity in any of your assets, like your house, you have. A list of assets will help you when you're deciding what to leave to whom, while your list of debts will help you understand how much you can leave to your beneficiaries, according to Financial Web. You may also want to consult an accountant or other financial professional at this time, especially if you want to change your retirement plans or work on tackling a large debt.
Choosing an Executor and Beneficiaries
Once you have a good idea of what you have to give away when you die, it's time to consider who you might want to leave it to. Your beneficiaries are those who will receive your property when you die if they are listed in your will. To avoid confusion, list each of your beneficiaries by their full name and address. Also, choose an executor who will be responsible for managing your assets and carrying out your instructions as listed in your will. Most people choose an executor they trust, such as their spouse, an adult child or a parent or sibling. It may be a good idea to designate an alternate executor in case your first choice is unable to fulfill his duties.
Creating the Will
Forty-nine states require wills to be in writing and on paper except in certain limited and extreme circumstances, according to the American Bar Association. As of December 2010, only Nevada accepts a will in electronic format like a computer file. You may write your will by hand, type it or use a preprinted will form that has fill-in-the-blanks fields. An attorney drawing up your will for you will most likely type it. The will should say that it is your will, that it revokes any wills you've made before it, and should include your full name and the date you made it. Then, name your executor and list who should receive what parts of your property.
Executing the Will
Once your will is drawn up, it must be executed properly according to your state's law, or it will not be valid. All states require you to sign and date your own will. Most states also require at least two witnesses that watch you sign your will and then sign and date your will themselves, indicating that they witnessed you as you signed your own will. Vermont requires three witnesses. In Louisiana, you may have only one witness, but you must also have the will notarized. It is best to have all the necessary witnesses and the notary in the room together with you when you sign your will.
References & Resources
- Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images