How to Make Your Own Legal Will

By Teo Spengler

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.

Step 1

Consider your property and to whom it should belong at your death. These decisions are the heart and soul of any last will and testament and merit time and energy. Assemble a complete list of your property -- real estate; savings, checking and investment accounts; personal property including jewelry; other holdings of monetary or sentimental value -- then determine appropriate heirs for each item. Most states impose no restrictions on your choice of heirs; a few mandate bequests to minor children.

Step 2

Review the form will. Blanks in the early paragraphs require identifying information. Fill in your name, address and other data. Use a pen or a typewriter.

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Step 3

Fill in the asset/heir section with the list you prepared in step 1. Identify property carefully to prevent ambiguity; describe heirs by full name and address. Select and insert the name of a "residuary beneficiary" to inherit any items you failed to bequeath specifically. Consider whether you wish to condition one or more bequests on the heir(s) surviving your death (not dying before you do). If so, state the condition beside the bequest and name an alternative beneficiary to inherit that item of property in case the condition is not met.

Step 4

Name a guardian for your minor children in the appropriate blank. Name a person to administer your will where the form asks for the name of an executor. The executor gathers your assets, pays your bills and distributes your estate according to the terms of your will.

Step 5

Execute your will. Assemble two adults who are not named as heirs in your will. Inform them that you are signing your will, and sign and date the will in their presence, then ask them to sign and date it as well. Some states do not allow a spouse to serve as a disinterested witness, whether or not he stands to inherit under the will.

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How to Write a Last Will

References

Related articles

How Can I Make My Own Will Legal?

A valid will assures you that, upon your death, your property passes as you direct -- not according to government statutes. In most states, your choice of heir is unrestricted, although a few jurisdictions require provision for minor children. While most states do not mandate specific language to validate a will, they do vary on exact procedural requirements for last testaments. The general requirements include an of-age testator (18 or older), clear testamentary intent and two inscribing witnesses. Refer to the specific laws of your state and consider consulting a lawyer to ensure your will meets the jurisdictional requirements for legality.

How to Prepare to Make a Will

Because a will is effective only upon death, it stands as your last statement to the world. A will contains final instructions, disposes of your property, names a guardian for your minor children and appoints an executor for your estate. Although you can modify your will during your lifetime, upon your death the terms are fixed and unalterable. Paying attention to preliminary details ensures that your final statement represents your true intentions. Consulting an attorney will ensure proper distribution of property

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.

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