How to Make a Will with Beneficiaries

By Teo Spengler

A will is a legal document and special vocabulary applies to virtually every step of the drafting process. The document itself is often termed "last will and testament;" the person drafting the will is known as the testator. In a will, the testator makes "devises" or "bequests" her property to selected persons or entities, termed "heirs" or "beneficiaries." Since a central purpose of a will is to name heirs, the process of "making a will with beneficiaries" is neither more nor less than that of making a will.

Step 1

Elect to hire an attorney to prepare your will if your estate is large, your holdings complex or your heirs litigious. Consider drafting your own will for a simple estate. If you elect the later course, obtain a good form will specially prepared for your jurisdiction. Top choice for a form will is a statutory will, a form will approved by the legislature as valid in your state. Statutory wills appear in the probate code and courts often provide blank copies. Alternatively, search the law library or legal bookstore for a form will approved by the bar association in your state.

Step 2

Consider whom you wish to benefit from your property when you die. Many people put family first, but law imposes few limitations on heirs. Select family, friends, pets or favorite causes as the beneficiaries of your legacy. Decide whether to leave percentage shares of your estate or bequeath specific property. The latter option mandates clear and detailed property descriptions, including identifying numbers for bank accounts, real property and vehicles. Determine whether to condition the bequests -- for example, leaving assets to your spouse if he is alive at the time of your death -- and, if so, identify alternate beneficiaries.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Step 3

Take this information to your attorney or insert it in the form will. If you are filling out the will yourself, the first blanks will ask for your name, date of birth and current residence address. Next, you will insert your bequests -- identifying the beneficiaries by full name and address -- in the appropriate blanks. Name an executor to steer your will through probate, but confirm her willingness to serve before adding her name to the will.

Step 4

Realize that life insurance policies generally pass to beneficiaries you name in the policy, not according to the terms of the will. Certain other accounts -- retirement packages, for example -- can also pass directly to a named heir. Calculate these accounts into your overall estate plan. Most policies allow beneficiary changes, so you can amend if necessary.

Step 5

Sign your will using the procedure required by your state's probate code. Your attorney guides you through the process, termed "will execution." For do-it-yourself drafters, a good form will describes how many witnesses your jurisdiction requires and the execution process. All states require that at least two adults watch you sign the will or affirm your earlier signature. Select disinterested witnesses, not otherwise named in your will. Tell them that the document is your last will and testament, then sign in their presence. Each witness signs as well.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
How to Get a Will



Related articles

How to Make Your Own Legal Will

It is not that hard to cook up a legal will. Take one testator, over the age of 18 and of sound mind. Add a good dose of testamentary intent, a variety of assets and one or more heirs, according to taste. Finish off with a couple of disinterested witnesses, signatures and dates. Let set at room temperature for as long as possible before serving. This recipe is likely to be please everywhere, but allow for minor adjustments among states.

How to Create a Will When You Have Kids

Few people like to contemplate their own demise and, as a result, fewer than half of American adults have valid wills, according to the American Bar Association. Dying without a will leaves decisions about inheritance to the state and -- for those with minor children -- forfeits your say in their future care. If your spouse does not survive you, a guardian raises your minor children. A will is your vehicle to name a trusted person to this important office and also to appoint a financial guardian to manage their assets until they come of age.

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 are complicated and expensive to prepare. Although large and complex estates may require estate-planning services and legal advice, many people with smaller holdings use simple testaments. All jurisdictions accept self-drafted testaments that meet probate requirements. Some states -- such as California -- make it easy for people to draft their own wills by providing a valid form will in the statutes and allowing handwritten wills.

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

Related articles

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 ...

How to Make Your Own Will

Many people procrastinate making wills because of discomfort with the idea of death, but a well-conceived will brings ...

How to Go About Making a Will

More than half of Americans don't have a will, according to the American Bar Association. Whether due to fear of death ...

How to Write a Last Will

Fewer than half of American adults have a last will and testament, according to the American Bar Association. One ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED