While most people understand the importance of having a will, they typically do not know what steps to take to write one. In some situations, having a professional write your will is best, especially for large estates. However, it is possible to write your own will.

Writing a Will

The first step in writing your own will is deciding which tool you will use to draft it. While it is legal in some states to hand write a will, it is strongly suggested that a typed copy is created, as a formal document will make the probate process after you death much easier.

There are various tools that you can use to draft your will, including:

  • Statutory forms – These forms are customized to various state laws. (Only a few states have these.)
  • Flat forms – These blank forms are filled in by using your word processor.
  • Will software – With various will software programs, you answer questions and then the program automatically creates the will based on your answers.
  • Will books – Will books provide helpful instructions on completing flat forms, as well as offering advice on other aspects of estate planning.
  • Online will programs – Like will software, you create the will within a template program, however this would be done online.

Make sure that you pick the tool that works best for you and one with clear instructions. That way, the will that you create effectively communicates your last wishes.

What to Include in Your Will

While no states require specific information or language in wills, you do want it to be easy to understand for those who will work with your will after you death. Wills are typically used to distribute property, as well as other assets. Wills can also do the following:

  • Name an executor – Executors are in charge of fulfilling the deceased’s last wishes and to clear all debts.
  • Name guardians for young children – This will include stating how the children’s inherited property and assets will be managed.
  • Explain how debts and taxes are to be paid and cleared.
  • Designate a caretaker for pets and how to provide for them.
  • Act as a backup for a living trust.

Wills are not intended to do the following:

  • Put conditions or guidelines on gifts. (For instance, courts will not enforce conditions such as a recipient only receiving inheritance if he or she marries a specific person or if he or she changes religion.)
  • Leave property for pets.
  • Name life insurance beneficiaries or other payable-on-death bank accounts.
  • Funeral arrangements. (It is best to create a separate document that states how to handle final arrangements.)

Make Your Will Legal

Making a will legal involves the following:

  • The will maker’s signature.
  • Two witness signatures.

Keep in mind that your witnesses do not need to read the will, as they are only signing to acknowledge that it is a will. In most states, you can also include a self-proving affidavit that will make the probate process easier after your death. Also, wills do not need to be signed by a notary public to make it legal.

Seeking Legal Assistance for Wills

If your estate is more complex and you think that an attorney would be helpful in creating your will, contact Clear Counsel Law Group to set up a consultation. The estate attorneys at Clear Counsel Law know how to create a will that reflects your final wishes.

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