How to Write a Will for Property

By Teo Spengler

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.

Step 1

Check the age requirements to execute a will in your state. Most states require a testator to be 18 years or older. Underage people's property passes according to intestate distribution laws, usually to offspring and parents. Most states require that a testator also be of sound mind. This means that the testator must understand that she is making a will, know who she wishes to inherit and comprehend her devises in a general sense.

Step 2

Read through the form will and fill in the blanks. Insert your full name and address, and name an executor -- the person who administers your estate after you die. The executor gathers your assets, pays any outstanding estate bills and distributes your property according to the terms of your will. You can name as executor someone who is also an heir under your will. Check with the person you select before inserting his name to be sure he accepts the appointment.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Step 3

Consider your devises. If you have myriad heirs, work out on scratch paper which heir is to receive what property. Enter the information in the devise section of the form will. Identify each heir unambiguously by full name, address and date of birth. Describe each bequest specifically. Use a parcel number or street address for real property, identifying account numbers for bank or investment accounts, and license plate numbers for vehicles. Consider naming a residuary beneficiary to inherit whatever you did not specifically bequest.

Step 4

Add any conditions to your bequests. For example, if you only want your cousin to inherit your house if he survives you, add the condition to the devise and specify an alternative beneficiary in case the condition is not met. Name any child you disinherit and leave him a nominal devise of $1. If you omit mention of a child in your will, the court may consider the child "forgotten" and entitled to an intestate share.

Step 5

Sign your will in the manner required by your state statutes. All states require that at least two adults witness a prepared will. Select people who are not heirs under your will. In their presence, identify the document as your last will and testament, then sign in the space at the end. Each witness signs after your signature.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
How to Do Your Own Will


Related articles

How to Prepare a Will

A will is a document in which a person describes the management and distribution of her estate after her death. Per common law, a "will" disposed of real property while a "testament" disposed of personal property, but today the courts use the terms interchangeably. No state requires a will, but persons dying without wills cede to the state all decisions about estate distribution. With a will, a testator makes her own inheritance decisions, selects an appropriate executor for her estate, and names a guardian to raise her minor children in the event of her death.

How to Go About Making a Will

More than half of Americans don't have a will, according to the American Bar Association. Whether due to fear of death or lawyers' bills, many people procrastinate drafting a last testament. Yet a simple will is the task of a few hours, and proper execution is a matter of minutes -- if you understand the few procedural requirements. Those with large holdings or complicated estates may do better with tax and legal advice.

How to Get a Will

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.

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

Related articles

How to Make Your Own Legal Will

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 ...

How to Create a Will at Home

So many people procrastinate drafting wills that less than half of American adults have last testaments, according to ...

How to Write a Last Will

Fewer than half of American adults have a last will and testament, according to the American Bar Association. One ...

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, ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED