Last Will & Testament Documents

By A.L. Kennedy

Your last will and testament describes how you want your property distributed to your chosen beneficiaries when you die. To ensure your assets go to the people you choose, you may use several documents along with the will itself. These documents are used to supplement or amend your will in order to make your wishes clear.


The will itself is the central document in most people's estate plans. As of 2010, all 50 states accept wills that are typed or handwritten on paper. However, only a few states accept an oral will, and only Nevada accepts an electronic will. Consult an attorney to determine how to make a valid last will and testament in your state.


A codicil is an amendment to your original will. It can change a large or small portion of your will. Like your will, a codicil must be in writing, signed and witnessed according to the specific laws of your state, and attached to your will so that it is not lost or forgotten after you are gone. If you want to change substantial portions of your will, you may wish to write a new will instead of using a codicil.

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Personal Property Memorandum

If you want to leave particular items to particular people, you may wish to attach a personal property memorandum to your will instead of making the list in the will itself. A personal property memorandum lists each item you want a particular person to receive, then lists the name of the person you want to leave it to. In most states, you can change a personal property memorandum more informally than you can change a will. For instance, you may be able to change the personal property memorandum simply by crossing out a line and writing the change in, instead of having the memorandum signed and witnessed with the same formality as your will itself, according to Offutt Air Force Base's Legal Office.

Self-Proving Affidavit

A self-proving affidavit is not required in any state to make a valid will. However, it can be useful after you are gone by speeding up the probate process. A self-proving affidavit is a signed and notarized statement made by you and your witnesses, stating that your signatures are all valid and that you know you have signed or witnessed a last will and testament. States that accept self-proving affidavits use them as evidence that your will is valid, instead of requiring your witnesses to testify in court that they signed your will.

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How Do I Change a Last Will & Testament?



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Is a Handwritten Change on a Will Legal?

Individual state laws govern wills, so what you can do to your will without invalidating it depends on where you live. Although you don't technically break the law if you make handwritten changes, you run the risk of the court either declining to accept your entire will as valid or refusing to abide by the changes if you don't make them correctly.

How to Write an Amendment to a Will

Once a will is written, signed, and witnessed, it is legal in most states as long as it meets state law requirements. To change a completed will, you must either add an amendment, known as a codicil, or destroy the will and create a new one. You cannot alter your will by simply crossing something out or adding something new. Writing an amendment to a will is a simple process that is legal as long as it is signed, dated and witnessed like the original will.

How to Get a Legal Change of Name in Hawaii

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