How to Create Last Will & Testament

By David Carnes

A last will and testament is an important legal document that governs the distribution of your property after you die. Because of their importance and the possibility of fraud, state laws have certain requirements regarding how wills are written and what they must include so that they may be enforced. A well written will can prevent an expensive legal battle over your estate.

Step 1

Title the document "Last Will and Testament." A will must clearly indicate that it is intended to be a will in order to be enforced.

Step 2

State your full name and address and declare that you are at least 18 years old, are of sound mind and memory, that this is your last will and testament and it revokes any previous wills or codicils, and that you are not subject to duress or undue influence with respect to the making of the will. All of these declarations anticipate possible challenges to the enforceability of your will.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Step 3

Name an executor and an alternate executor. The executor is the person who will administer your estate while your assets are being distributed. Choose someone you trust, who is also familiar with your property.

Step 4

Name a guardian and an alternate guardian for your minor children and any other dependent children, if you are the sole surviving parent. Although the court will not be obligated to appoint your nominee, your nomination will be persuasive.

Step 5

Name your beneficiaries and clearly state what property goes to whom. If your estate is extensive, you may need to spend some time compiling an exhaustive list of your assets. Write in such as way as to remove all ambiguity from your language.

Step 6

Name a beneficiary for the residue of your estate. The residue of your estate is any property that you did not mention in the previous step, including any property that you may acquire between the time you draft your will and the time you die.

Step 7

Sign and date your will in the presence of two or three witnesses, depending on state law. The witnesses must sign the will, as well, and must do so in each other's presence.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
How to Make Your Will Legal in Indiana


Related articles

How to Create a Trust in a Will

It is possible to include a clause in a will to have your assets distributed to a trust upon your death. This kind of trust is called a testamentary trust. The creation of a trust through a valid will may have several benefits, including the avoidance of probate. In addition, if you want to leave a considerable amount of money to a minor, like your child, a testamentary trust can provide oversight. For a testamentary trust to be recognized as valid, the will must be valid.

Purpose of Legal Wills

Two types of legal documents are referred to as wills. A last will and testament is an estate planning directive, which takes effect after your death. A living will includes health care directives and takes effect if you are incapacitated or physically unable to communicate. Each of these types of legal wills serve different purposes and both are important tools in the management of your personal legal affairs.

How to Prepare Simple Wills

A simple will contains only the bare elements necessary to create a legal will including naming an executor, naming a guardian for any minor children, making specific bequests of property or cash, and disposing of any remainder or residue of your estate. A simple will must also include a declaration of intent and be signed and witnessed in accordance with the laws of your state. Knowing how to prepare a simple will will give you the tools to settle the disposition of your property after your death -- if you have a relatively small estate with few legal and business entanglements.

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

Related articles

The Pros & Cons of Making a Will

A will is a written legal document that describes how you would like to distribute your property after you die. ...

How to Make Your Own Will Forms

A will is a document that tells a probate court how to distribute the assets of the person who wrote the will -- known ...

How to Execute a Last Will and Testament

A last will and testament is a document used to distribute the property after the property owner dies. The person who ...

How to Make Out a Simple Will

If you have property, you should have a will. This document specifies how your assets should be divided on your death, ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED