How to Execute a Last Will and Testament

By David Carnes

A last will and testament is a document used to distribute the property after the property owner dies. The person who creates the will, known as the testator, must not only clearly state his intended distribution of property, he must also execute the will in legally valid form. Although exact procedures vary from state to state, common features are found in every state. Check the law of your state for exact procedures and have an attorney look over your will before you sign it.

Step 1

Type out your will. A handwritten will, known as a holographic will, is not accepted as valid in many states. In addition, ambiguities in your handwriting have the potential to trigger disputes.

Step 2

Confirm, in the text of your will, that you are at least 18 years old and mentally competent. Initial the blank space to the left or right of this paragraph in your own handwriting.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Step 3

Select the executor of your will and name him in the text of your will. It is best to select an executor who is not named as an heir in your will. You might choose to select a backup executor should the first named executor is unable to perform the duties.

Step 4

Number each page of the will and initial the upper-right-hand corner of every page in your own handwriting. This makes it difficult for anyone to add, remove or replace pages.

Step 5

Select two or three people to witness the signing of your will (the exact number varies from state to state). None of the witnesses should be heirs or beneficiaries to your estate.

Step 6

Create a signature line with your full name typed underneath the line. Create similar signature lines for the people you have chosen to witness the signing of your will.

Step 7

Sign and date the will on the signature line, in your own handwriting, in the presence of your witnesses. Have the witnesses sign and date the will in the presence of a notary public and have the notary public stamp and sign the will. Everyone must present a government-issued photo ID to the notary public. Although notarization is not required in most states, it helps avoid disputes over the validity of signatures.

Step 8

Deliver your will (the original document, not a photocopy) to your executor for safekeeping or put it in a safe deposit box and authorize your executor to access the safe deposit box.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
Can a Person Write Their Own Will & Then Have It Notarized?

References

Related articles

How to Avoid Probate With a Hand Written Will

Wills come in several different packages, but they all have the same purpose -- to identify who will inherit your property when you die. Handwritten wills, termed holographic wills, are valid in some states, but only if executed according to state law. While the type of will you choose will not help you avoid probate, methods exist to accomplish that end.

How to Add a Page to My Last Will & Testament

As you age, your priorities or circumstances often change and you decide to revise some provisions of your will. One way to add a page to your will would be to revoke the current will and write a completely new will. However, this can be inconvenient and costly, -- and it might not be necessary. You can often include additional property or beneficiaries in your will by adding an amendment called a codicil. Another option is to add a personal property memorandum, which is used to dispose of tangible personal property that is not specifically disposed of in the will.

How to Create a Will at Home

So many people procrastinate drafting wills that less than half of American adults have last testaments, according to the American Bar Association. A will not only allows you to specify who is to inherit your property, it also is the vehicle for selecting an executor to administer your estate and a guardian to care for your minor children. Large and complicated holdings benefit from estate counsel, but a simple will drawn up at home works well in many cases. Wills cannot devise certain holdings like life insurance policies with designated beneficiaries.

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

Related articles

How Can I Make My Own Will Legal?

A valid will assures you that, upon your death, your property passes as you direct -- not according to government ...

How Can I Do My Own Will?

Less than half of American adults have wills. One reason for this low figure might be the common perception that wills ...

Does the Executor of a Will Have to Use an Attorney to Execute the Will?

When you create a will, you not only leave instructions for how your property should be distributed upon death, you ...

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