What Is Involved in Making a Will?

By A.L. Kennedy

Your will is a legal document that explains how you want your property distributed after your death. If you have minor children, your will may also explain how to provide for them in terms of guardianship and finances. When making your will, consider such issues as whom you trust to carry out your last wishes and/or raise your children, as well as which people or charities should receive your property when you die.


Your executor, or personal representative, is the person who will be responsible for carrying out the instructions in your will when you die. He or she will pay the estate's remaining debts, distribute your property to the people you wish to have it and defend the validity of your will in court if someone challenges it. Although your personal representative can be any competent adult, you should choose someone you trust and who agrees to take on the job once you are gone.

Guardian or Conservator

If you have minor or disabled children, you can provide for them in your will. For instance, your will can name an adult to serve as their guardian if both parents are gone. In most states, you can also name a conservator, or a person who is responsible for ensuring that any money you have left to pay for the children's care is spent wisely. The guardian and conservator may be the same person or two separate people. Like your executor, you should choose a guardian and/or conservator whom you trust, that your children like and who is willing to take on the responsibility.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Distribution of Property

In most states, a valid will must contain at least one phrase that distributes some article of property to some person. The property can be money, investments, real estate or personal items, and you may leave it to anyone you choose, with some exceptions. For instance, most states will not allow you to cut your current spouse out of your will entirely, according to the American Bar Association. Although your will does not have to distribute all of your property, you may wish to ensure that it does. Any property your will does not cover will be distributed according to your state's laws, which may not reflect your wishes.

Backup Plan

When you make your will, you rely on your best guesses about who will still be around after you are gone. However, it is possible that the person you have named as your executor, your children's guardian or one of your beneficiaries may die before you do or may suffer an illness or injury that leaves that person unable or unwilling to do what your will asks them to do. Therefore, it is wise to name a contingency, or backup, executor, guardian or conservator, as well as to state what should be done with your property if one of your beneficiaries cannot receive it.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
How to Make a Will by Yourself



Related articles

How Many Different Types of Wills Are There?

A will is a document that explains how to distribute your property after your death. There are several different types of wills, although not all types are valid in all states. In most cases, a will must be in writing and signed by the testator, or person making the will, as well as at least two witnesses. Consult an attorney to find out what types of wills are valid in your state.

How to Write a Will in Michigan

When Michigan residents die without making a will or other legal arrangement for their property, the probate court distributes their property according to Michigan law. Most people, however, have a different arrangement in mind for how to leave their property behind when they die. Making a will in Michigan makes it more likely your wishes will be carried out, and it may reduce the amount of time your family spends in probate court.

Last Will & Testament for a Single Person

People who are single can benefit from writing a will, whether they are divorced, widowed or have never married. A will allows you to leave your property to the people or charities you choose. It also allows you to choose who will be responsible for wrapping up your estate, distributing your property and taking care of any minor children you have.

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

Related articles

Decisions Involved in Making a Will

The nature of making a will can make it easy to become emotional rather than analytical. You might change your mind ...

How to Word a Will When You Have a Handicapped Child

Parents who have special needs children not only have to care for the child during their lifetime, the parents must ...

How to Make My Own Will Free of Charge

Writing your own will is a process that does not need to cost money. If you have limited assets and straightforward ...

Questions About Wills

A will is a document that explains how you want your property distributed when you die, according to the American Bar ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED