How to Prepare a Last Will

By Teo Spengler

A valid will lets you control the disposition of your assets after you die; otherwise, state law distributes your property to next of kin. A valid will can name a guardian for your minor children and an executor for your estate. Your circumstances dictate what type of will you need: a simple will that you can do yourself works well for if you have little property or few heirs, but legal help may be appropriate if you have more complex holdings and many heirs.

Step 1

Draft a complete list of your assets with identifying information. List things like real estate with street addresses and tax identification numbers; vehicles with license plate numbers; bank accounts with bank information; investment accounts with firm addresses; and jewelry, furs and heirlooms with notes describing where they are located. Lump personal property and house furnishings into general categories, and add them to the list. This list should provide a complete description of your holdings.

Step 2

Make a list of your potential heirs. Start with spouse, children, parents, siblings, cousins, grandparents and other family members. Add friends, neighbors, employees, godchildren -- anyone you care about or who is dependent on you financially. Include any church groups, associations, nonprofits or political associations to which you contribute or would like to. The list describes all persons and groups to whom you might make devises.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Step 3

Determine whether you need an attorney. Review both the list of assets and the list of potential heirs, and consider whether your estate faces tax issues. Decide whether you intend to disinherit any children. Any complexities of this nature usually mean that hiring experienced legal help is a good idea.

Step 4

Determine what property you will give to which heirs. Make an appointment with an estate attorney, if applicable, or fill in a form will. Identify yourself in the form where appropriate, fill in devises in the appropriate sections, and identify heirs by full name and address. Add your choice for guardian for your minor children and the executor of your will. Execute your will by signing in front of two adult witnesses who are not heirs under your will. The witnesses should sign below your signature.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
How to Go About Making a Will


Related articles

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 Do Your Own Will

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.

How to Write a Will for Property

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.

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

Related articles

Guide to Writing a Will

Writing a will is a serious undertaking that can settle your financial and property affairs for your spouse, children ...

How to Create a Will in Maryland

Seven out of 10 Americans die without a will, according to the University of Maryland’s Maryland Cooperative Extension. ...

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 do I Create a Valid Will?

Will requirements are neither tricky nor confusing. If you follow the procedures mandated in your state of residence, ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED