Simple Way to Write a Will

By Teo Spengler

You manage your assets and care for your family during your lifetime; a valid will extends your influence past your death by providing written instructions for distribution of your assets and care of your children. Americans dying without a will cede these choices to the state. While some hire attorneys and tax advisers to draft testaments, many people create their own valid wills using simple form wills or self-prepared testaments.

Statutory Wills

Some state legislatures make selecting a form will simple by providing one in the probate statutes. Maine's statutory will form is typical; its introduction reads: "Any person may execute a will on the following form and the will shall be presumed to be reasonable." Selecting this will-drafting option simply entails filling in the blanks. Early blanks identify the person drafting the will; later blanks provide devises of real property and personal property, and identify guardians, conservators, or those who manage children's assets, and personal representatives, also called executors. The final section provides places for your signature and those of witnesses.

Other Form Wills

Only a handful of states offer statutory wills. If yours doesn't, ask a law librarian or your state's Bar Association for a form will approved by the state Bar Association. A state-specific form eliminates research since state requirements -- age of testator, for example -- appear in the will terms. All states regulate execution -- how to sign a will -- and most invalidate wills improperly executed, yet witness requirements vary among the states. With a trustworthy form will, a testator simply fills in the blanks -- including witness signatures -- according to the instructions provided.

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Personally Prepared Wills

Create your own will by mimicking the provisions of a form will, from testator identification through proper execution. Critical research includes testator age requirements -- 18 years old in most states -- and number of required witnesses -- at least two in almost all states. Begin by typing your name, date of birth and address. Add your disposition of real property and personal property, either making percentage devises -- for example, "90 percent of my estate to my spouse" -- or specific devises -- for example, "my house located at 123 Grand Street in Malibu, California to my spouse." Appoint any guardians and an executor, then put sufficient witness signature lines to comply with your state's laws. Select adult witnesses not otherwise named in the will. Advise the witnesses that the document is your will, then sign in their presence before asking them to sign.

Holographic Wills

Many states allow handwritten, unwitnessed wills in emergency situations -- for example, if a testator faces imminent death; a few accept holographic, or entirely handwritten, wills in all circumstances. California's probate statutes, for example, permit any testator to write out her own will. It is valid without witnesses if written completely in the testator's hand, including date and signature. Research your state's laws regarding holographic wills before selecting this method of drafting. Include testator identification, devises and appointments, as in prepared wills. You need not use witnesses nor a notary public.

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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 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 Much Does it Cost to Create a Will?

More than half of American adults have no will, notes the American Bar Association. This is due in part to the general perception that will preparation is complicated and expensive. While lawyer time adds up fast, people with simple estates can usually prepare their own wills at very little cost -- and since a will lets you name your heirs and the guardian of your minor children, the costs of not having a will can be substantially greater.

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