How to Make a Will Legal for Executor of Will After Death

By Teo Spengler

The executor pilots the last will and testament through probate. She takes charge of the estate of the deceased, files the will in probate court and administers the property through distribution. The probate court supervises the executor's actions -- from the time the will is filed in probate until final distribution of assets to heirs -- to assure honesty and accuracy. A valid will is a legal will. To provide a legal will for the executor after your death, draft and execute your will according to state requisites.

Step 1

Assure yourself that attorneys prepared the will form you use and that it is valid in your state. A trustworthy form will solves many research issues. It includes all requisite assertions and execution instructions for your jurisdiction. Not every form will available is trustworthy since will requisites vary among states. Obtain a recommendation from your attorney or ask the law librarian for a form will prepared or approved by your state's Bar Association. If your draft will uses an improper or unproven form, start again from scratch.

Step 2

Make sure that you are of legal age to execute a will in your state. Most states require a testator to be at least 18 years old, but some have no age requirements or a different minimum. A good form will gives you this information; alternatively, research the issue in the probate code in the law library. An otherwise perfect will is void if the testator is underage. Worry less about the "of sound mind" requirement; courts presume that an adult is mentally competent to make a will.

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Step 3

Review your bequests for specificity. Identify each heir by her complete name, date of birth and current address. Describe every piece of property in specific terms. Instead of "my car," write "my red 2005 Alpha Romeo Spider convertible, vanity license plate SOCOOL." Ambiguity creates problems for your executor. Be sure that you mention each natural and adopted child in your will, even if the bequest is a nominal one dollar. "Forgotten" children lead to will contests. If you condition a bequest, be sure to include an alternative beneficiary in case the condition is not met.

Step 4

Identify the executor clearly; use full name and current address. Specify whether the executor posts a bond -- discuss this with the executor before executing your will. Use like precision in naming the guardian for your minor children and the separate financial guardian, if any. If you select a bank for the latter role, identify the bank and branch.

Step 5

Use special care in executing the will. Since a deceased testator cannot verify his signature, state probate statutes impose strict witnessing requirements. All states require at least two witnesses for prepared wills; some require more. Select witnesses who are over the age of 18 yet younger than you are, so that they are less likely to predecease you. Select disinterested witnesses, that is, persons not heirs or otherwise named in the will. Be sure you affirm testamentary intent before the witnesses by informing them that the document is your last will and testament. Sign the will in the witnesses' presence, then have each sign below.

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How to Write a Last Will
 

References

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Few people enjoy contemplating death, which may explain why only two out of five Americans over the age of 45 have wills. But a will provides peace of mind. With a will, you choose your own heirs, whether they are family members, good friends or worthy associations. Without a will, the state distributes your property under the intestate laws to blood kin you may not like or even know. In a will, you name an executor for your estate and specify who is to care for your minor children should your spouse not survive you.

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Many people postpone writing a last will and testament on the assumption that the process is time-consuming and expensive. While tax planning and legal assistance benefit large or complex estates, form wills often work well for simple holdings. Form wills contain the bare bones of a last testament; you fill in the blanks to personalize the document. Few states regulate the contents of devises, but most provide strict statutory requirements for how to sign the will. With a well-prepared form will, you "get a will" in one afternoon.

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Modern courts make no distinction between the terms "will" and "testament." Both describe a document indicating who is to inherit your assets at your death. Although complex estates profit from tax planning and legal assistance, form wills can work well for simple holdings. States impose few rules about the provisions of your will, but are particular about how you execute the document.

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