Do-It-Yourself Last Will and Testament

By Jeffry Olson, J.D.

Do-It-Yourself Last Will and Testament

By Jeffry Olson, J.D.

It has always been possible to draft your own last will and testament. Today, with the internet and online options, it is easier than ever. However, each state has its own legal requirements that you must carefully follow—probate courts do not allow for mistakes because an attorney did not draft your estate planning documents. A do-it-yourself will is best for circumstances where the person's assets are straightforward and uncomplicated.

Elderly woman sitting on a couch signing paperwork

Preparing to Draft a Last Will and Testament

Prior to drafting it, gather all the necessary information. Create a list of all debts you owe, including credit cards, mortgages, student loans, and outstanding tax obligations. Create a list of all assets you own. This includes real property, bank accounts, retirement accounts, pensions, valuable personal assets, and brokerage accounts.

Decide on an executor for your estate. The executor oversees your estate upon your death. This includes paying outstanding debts and distributing remaining assets according to the terms of your will. Choose someone who is responsible and a person you trust to follow your wishes. Ask the individual before you name them executor.

If you have minor children, you should decide on guardians for them in the event of your death as well. Also, consider who you would like to oversee your children's finances. These do not have to be the same person. Consult with these people before naming them and consider naming backup guardians in case your first choice becomes unable to care for your children.

Do-It-Yourself Options

After you have collected the necessary information, you have a number of options. Stationary and office supply stores have blank forms that you can purchase and complete. Still, you must fill out these forms in compliance with the laws of your state. Do not assume that a form sold in your state meets the requirements of your state.

Depending on your state, you may have the option to create a holographic will. In order to do so, the person must write everything by hand, then sign and date it. They usually do not require witnesses or notarization.

Computer programs are also available for use. After purchasing the program, you can fill it out at your computer. Print the completed form and execute the document accordingly. The internet offers many solutions as well. Using a search engine, you can review others' completed wills. Simply find the format that applies to your situation and insert your information. Print the completed form and execute the document.

Regardless of the method you choose, every state requires you to comply with its laws when drafting and executing a last will and testament. It is not enough to simply complete a form, you must also properly execute the document. Depending on your state, this may include witnesses and notarization of certain signatures. If you do not have a last will and testament, review the laws of your state and draft your own today. Find which one of these do-it-yourself choices is right for you.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.