A will is a necessary part of life if you want to ensure that the people you care about are provided for after your death. If you have cherished possessions and want to make sure they go to a certain someone, mentioning this in your will is the best way of making sure that this happens. Because an attorney can be expensive, knowing how to write a will yourself can be a cost-effective way to prepare for the future.
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Investigate the requirements for wills in your state. Although some states have subscribed to the Uniform Probate Code, which harmonizes the laws on wills across participating states, as of November 2010, most states have not. Determine the number of witnesses you need, the age requirements for writing a will, and whether there are any requirements as to content. State laws on wills can often be found on the state's court service website.
Write a list of all the assets you wish to leave to your beneficiaries. List assets such as your house, money and any prized possessions. Note down which person is to receive each asset -- or a share in each asset -- by writing his name beside the item in question. This makes it easier to write the will and ensures you do not accidentally leave anything out. Review the list and make any changes as necessary.
Choose who will act as your executor and name her on your list. The executor is the person responsible for carrying out your wishes as laid down in your will, so she must be reliable. She is free to refuse the job, or may be unable to carry out her duties when the time comes, so it is a good idea to also choose an alternate executor you know will be comfortable undertaking the role. Check that the person or persons you chose are legally allowed to act as executor under your state's laws.
Write the will. Ensure that the structure and presentation of your will reflects all state requirements as to content or format. Some states require typed wills and will not accept handwritten wills, also known as holographic wills. Sign the will before as many witnesses as your state requires. Have your witnesses also sign the will.
Tips & Warnings
Because the probate system can be costly and time-consuming, you may wish to consider avoiding probate as much as possible by creating co-tenancy agreements, or putting your money and possessions into a trust. This will enable you to leave these assets out of your will and still have them pass to the person you want to have them.
Wills can be complex even for moderate-sized estates. When writing your own will, there is always the chance that you will make a mistake or leave out an important feature that may render the will either wholly or partly invalid. Having a lawyer draft a will for you, or even having a lawyer read over a will you create yourself, may avoid these problems.
References & Resources
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