How to Make Out a Simple Will

By Jeffry Olson, J.D.

How to Make Out a Simple Will

By Jeffry Olson, J.D.

Every adult who owns property needs an estate plan. The most basic form of estate planning is a simple will. By executing a simple will, the individual determines what happens to his or her property after death. A complete simple will has a number of requirements.

Man in blue sweater looking down at laptop in lap

Identify Yourself

The person executing the will is the testator. Include your name and enough information to identify the will as yours. Technically, your name is sufficient. However, there is no reason not to provide additional information, such as your date of birth and home address.

Executor

The executor is the person responsible for complying with the terms of your will and distributing your assets. Your will must identify that person with enough detail to allow a reader to determine who that person is. An address, a telephone number, and an email address for that person is also helpful. It is wise, also, to name as least one successor in case your first choice is deceased or incapacitated at the time of your death.

Contact the individuals you will be naming executor and successors in advance. Make sure they are willing and able to serve. The process is much smoother when the individual knows his or her role beforehand. Tell that person not only of the existence of your will, but where you are storing it.

Name Your Beneficiaries

Beneficiaries are the people and organizations that will receive your assets upon your death. Your will must identify beneficiaries with enough detail that a reader of your will can understand who or what they are. Include name, birthdate when appropriate, address, telephone number, and email address. If the beneficiary is a family member, include your relationship to help identify the person.

Guardians for Children

If you have minor children, identify who will care for them after your death. Again, discuss this with that party prior to naming them. It is important that they be able and willing to assume this significant responsibility.

Distribution of Your Assets

Detail how you want your assets distributed and to which beneficiaries upon your death. This distribution can be done by shares, percentages, specific dollar amounts, specific piece of property, or any other way that will be clear to the reader of your will.

Funeral Arrangements

If you would like any specific funeral arrangements, those should be identified in your will. These arrangements can include details such as cremation or burial, cemetery choice, and any other wishes for your funeral.

Witnesses

For a simple will, execution of the will requires two witnesses. Those witnesses sign the will saying they observed the execution of the will by the testator. Typically, the signature of the testator and the witnesses are notarized when executing the will.

Probate, the Final Test of a Simple Will

While technically not part of a simple will, be aware that every will goes through a court process known as probate. In short, probate is the process where the court oversees the payment of debts and the distribution of any remaining assets pursuant to the terms of the will. Probate is relevant here because it is important to know that even a simple will is subject to court review. All of the sections previously discussed must meet with the approval of the court.

Thus, it is necessary to be meticulous in making out a simple will. Including the details discussed here will ease the processes of probate and distributing your assets to your beneficiaries.

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.