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How To Write A Last Will And Testament

Updated: December 13, 2023
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Writing a last will and testament involves creating a legal document that outlines who inherits your belongings and to what extent such a person receives them. This also includes how the person receives it.

Several benefits are associated with writing your last will and testament. Apart from determining how your real estate is treated after you pass, a well-written will is a way to provide guidance on the distribution of assets and make the probate process smoother on surviving family members. It is also a way to avoid adverse effects that may come with not having a will.

Surprisingly, writing a last will and testament is easier than most people think. This article details every necessary detail about the process, including a step-by-step analysis of how to write a last will and testament.

Steps to Write a Last Will and Testament

For many reasons, we advise you to consult an estate planning lawyer when considering preparing your last will and statement. Lawyers are trained in how to properly construct these documents and can help advise you on things to consider while drafting the document. However, many people prefer to write their wills themselves.

We have outlined eight (8) major steps below to help you learn how to write a last will and testament for yourself:

  1. Include Information that Identifies You Personally. This step is designed to specifically eliminate doubts if you actually wrote the will. You may include unnecessary information, such as your name, address, social security number (SSN), driver's license number, etc.
  2. Specify Your Age and Mental Status. Verifying your age ensures you are eligible to write a will – that is, above 18 years. The same applies to confirming your mental status. This ensures you have a sound body and mind when writing the will. A mentally impaired person can’t make a valid will. If your template doesn’t include where to specify your age and mental status, you can either write it out yourself or choose another last will and testament template.
  3. Choose an Executor. An executor is someone who oversees the actualization of your final wishes as stated in your last will and testament. This is the person who entrusts your will, reads it out after your demise and ensures your final instructions are executed. An executor can be any person. However, ensure you can trust the judgement and integrity of such a person.
  4. Specify Who Takes Care of Your Children. If you have children, it is important you address what happens to them if you pass away. For this reason, you must designate someone to cater to them. This way, you can be sure your legacy is upheld and they are kept in good hands. Choosing an unfit person is equivalent to choosing nobody. You must ensure you choose a trusted person to take care of your children after you are gone. Ensure you speak with anyone you choose about your wishes and that person agrees with them before you include their name in your will. Give them a sense of your desires before making a final decision. This will help you judge appropriately if such a person is the right person for the task.
  5. Choose Your Beneficiaries. When writing your last will and testament, you will need to choose your beneficiaries. In this stage, you have to choose who gets a share of your property, specifying the exact property each of them gets after you pass. This is a crucial stage as any wrong decision or mistake might cost you the opportunity to fulfill your wishes after you die. Choosing your beneficiaries with specificity also helps you avoid family issues during execution. There are no limits to how many persons you can add as your beneficiary.
  6. Specify Your Funeral Details. This is another essential aspect of your last will and testament. Specifying your funeral details will make your final arrangements easier for your family members. They will likely to be grieving and it would be tougher having to figure how you want to be buried themselves. It ensures your family members honor your last wishes.
  7. Append Your Signature. Sign and date your last will and testament. For validity, ensure the presence of at least two (2) witnesses to add their signatures, too. Signing your last may also have to be done in the presence of a notary, depending on the requirements of your jurisdiction. The notary has to add their signature too, except if the notary is also a witness. A notary signature also eliminates possible conflicts or doubts regarding your final wishes. Finally, in many jurisdictions, your beneficiaries can’t be a witness. Therefore, you must carefully choose your witnesses to ensure the validity of your will.
  8. Safeguard Your Will. Why prepare a will if there is a risk it goes missing? Ensure you keep your last will and testament in safe place so it can be located when it is needed. You may also choose to review your will and testament – typically every three or two years or after a significant life change, such as birth, death, divorce, etc.

Here is an article on how to write a last will and testament.

See Last Will and Testament Pricing by State

Eligibility for Writing a Last Will and Testament

To write a last will and testament, you must be above the legal age – usually 18 years old. Also, you must have a sound mind.

There are certain exceptions to the age requirements, such as if you are married, legally emancipated, or belong to the military.

Similarly, if you suffer from mental illnesses, such as delusions, hallucinations, etc., you might not be able to write your last will and testament. You may consider talking to your family lawyer, too, before you write your last will and testament.

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Importance of a Written Last Will and Testament

A last will and testament is a legal document determining the fate of your assets and property when you die. A last will and testament also specifies the person responsible for executing the plan.

In essence, a will lets you define your assets, name beneficiaries, including minor children, and appoint someone to oversee the distribution process to ensure its successful. Anyone who dies without a last will and testament automatically transfers your estate to the probate court to decide its handling after your demise.

Here is an article on last will and testaments.

Essential Elements of a Last Will and Testament

Another thing you must know when learning how to write a last will and testament is what you should include in the will. What you should include in a last will and statement are:

  • Guardianship: This specifies who takes care of your children after you are gone.
  • Assets: This tells how your assets will be distributed after your demise. You can create a list that specifies the exact list of items that each beneficiary gets. You might also choose to liquidate your assets and share specific percentages of the total value accrued.
  • Real Property : This refers to your land, home, or any permanent structure you have. If you do not know how to share your real property, you can consult an experienced and knowledgeable real estate attorney.

Here is an article on what you should include in a last will and testament.

Final Thoughts on How to Write a Last Will and Testament

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