How to Make a Will Legally Binding Regarding Custody of Children

By John Cromwell

A last will and testament is more than just a document describing how your property should be distributed after your death. A will can also be used to define who should receive custody of any children. What makes a will legally binding varies by state. One example of standards for drafting a will is the Uniform Probate Code (UPC). As of January 2012, 17 states have adopted the UPC and it is endorsed by the American Bar Association.

Step 1

Select a worthy guardian for the child or children in question. A personal guardian has physical custody of the child, is responsible for the child's day-to-day care, and has legal responsibility for the child’s well being. A financial guardian manages the assets set aside for the child’s care and disperses those assets for the child’s benefit. Depending on the circumstances, you can either appoint two individuals to oversee these different aspects of the child’s care or one person to be in total control.

Step 2

Record, or have an attorney record, your wishes. Your will should be as specific as possible, clearly defining your wishes. This includes explicitly naming all individuals you want to have custody of your children and what you want those people’s role to be. So if you want person A to be the personal guardian and person B to be the financial guardian, it is important your will clearly specify those roles.

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Step 3

Sign the will in the presence of witnesses. State laws vary concerning what constitutes a valid signature and how many witnesses are required when signing a will. For example, the UPC states you can either sign the will in the presence of witnesses or you can sign the will, show the document to the witnesses, and acknowledge the signature as your own. You can either sign the will personally or instruct someone to sign the will for you in your presence. To satisfy the witness requirement under the UPC, you can have two people sign to signify they witnessed you acknowledge the will. The UPC also allows you to have the will notarized to satisfy the witness requirement.

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References

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Illinois Laws on Wills

A valid will can nominate someone to manage your estate and detail how your property should be distributed when you die. In Illinois, wills must comply with the Illinois Compiled Statutes, which address requirements such as the age and mental condition of the person making the will. If your will doesn't meet these requirements, it may be declared invalid, and your estate will be distributed according to state law.

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 child custody plans or no minor children, making your own will free of charge may be an option for you. If you have a complex financial portfolio or your children will require special care or financial arrangements, however, you may wish to speak to an experienced attorney in your state about the details of your will.

How to Witness a Last Will & Testament

Being asked to witness the will of a friend, family member or coworker can create unnecessary anxiety. Although a will is an important legal document which must be witnessed to be valid, the duties and responsibilities of witnesses are simple and straightforward. It is extremely rare for witnesses to a will to ever be called upon for any further obligations related to their signatures. As you consider how to witness a last will and testament, think about taking advantage of the will-signing event to complete your own will at the same time.

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