Writing a will is the first step to estate planning

How to Write a Will

Your Last Will and Testament is one of the most important documents you will ever create. This document will determine how your estate is distributed upon your death and, if applicable, who will have custody of your minor children. Wills guarantee that your wishes are fulfilled after you pass away and will protect your estate from excessive taxation and distribution by the government.

Composing a Will

You can create a will on your own. However, it is always advisable for an attorney to look over the document to ensure it meets state guidelines. The laws regarding personal wills are governed by the state and may differ from state to state. Prior to composing a will, you should review all state requirements.

Identifying the Testator

In most cases, a will is started by stating the full name of the testor, the person for whom the will is being created. The marital status of the person should also be noted. Once the identity has been established, it should be stated that this document is the last will and testament of that person and that all other wills or codicils in the past are now considered null and void. The will should state that the person creating the will understands its contents and meanings. This term is known as a statement of sound mind.

Instructions for Paying Creditors

The next portion of the will should contain directions to pay off the final debts of the deceased, including taxes, medical bills and other debts.

Identify the Executor

The next portion of the will names an executor. An executor is the person who carries out the requests made in the will and pays the debts of the estate. An executor can be anyone that you trust. In most states, a secondary executor must be named in the will in case the first executor is unable to perform his or her duties.

Establishing Beneficiaries

The will should then state the beneficiaries that will receive any specific assets from the estate. In most states, the money, home car, and most personal belongings automatically transfer over to the spouse. Special requests can be made in the will, but you can't leave your spouse nothing.

Making it Legal

Once all the special bequests have been made, the will is signed in front of a minimum of two witnesses and a notary public. It is important to check what your state requires for witnesses because some require a minimum of three witnesses. This will is now a legal document and is binding in court.

As a final task, you should have at least three copies made of your will. You should keep the original with your important paperwork at home where you have told someone where it is located. The second copy should be distributed to the executor of the will. The final should be given to a loved one. You should not keep your will locked in a safe deposit box, this can delay finalizing your estate for over a year.

Last Updated: May 23, 2017