A will is an extremely important legal instrument that will have a significant effect on your estate. Great care should be taken when drafting a will or any other testamentary document. A will can be drafted very simply following these simple steps, however I always recommend consulting an attorney prior to execution. Please see the free sample wills in the Trusts and Estates section.
If you have written or executed a Will in the past, it must be physically destroyed. Even though a later will will supersede one dated before, generally, never rely on the language and destroy it. Write void on it and sign it, then rip it up and / or burn it.
Examine one of the many free wills on this website by entering the trusts and estates section. Review it carefully and determine which will fits your needs. You can then copy and paste the text of the will onto a Microsoft Word document that you can use to edit it for your preferences.
There are a variety of wills on this website. Some are more detailed than others and some are state specific however with few modifications could apply to your state. Review several documents and select the appropriate last will according to your needs.
Once you have copied the information to Microsoft Word, enter your personal information into the lines that are provided. Delete any extra blanks as needed. Your will is your slate to leave your final wishes.
Most of the wills on this website have a no-contest provision however if you do not leave all of your children at least something, a child could contest it on the grounds that you forgot them from your will. It is always best to make your intentions clear that you did not forget anyone. If you intend to not leave a child something, specify it in the will or give a child the gift of $1 to make your intentions clear. Regarding your spouse, if you are in a community property state your will may only affect your half of the community property. Consult an attorney for further instruction.
Review all of the contents of your will carefully and ensure that each statement clearly and accurately reflects your intent to the fullest. Typographical or spelling mistakes are permissible, so long as your intent is clear. If a mistake on your will leaves any question, correct that error and re-print the page. Do NOT use Liquid Paper or any correction type product. RE PRINT the correct form of the document.
All 50 states require two witnesses, with the exception of Vermont. We advise you to have three witnesses sign your Will in the instance that one moves to another state or dies. Do not have your children or spouse serve as witnesses and pay close attention to the rules that your witnesses should at least be 18 years of age and in no way a beneficiary to your Will. If that Will is challenged a court could deny a beneficiary to their share if they also served as a witness.
This individual, if possible should live in the same state because it could be quite costly to your estate to have an executor fly back and forth for management purposes of the estate. Also, even if waived in your will, some states require, out of state executors to post a cash bond.
This question and consideration varies by state based on the following. Notarizing your Will is unnecessary, unless you select to complete a Self-Proving Affidavit in conjunction with the signing of your Will. I strongly recommended that you complete the Self-Proving Affidavit, unless you reside in the District of Columbia, Ohio, Maryland, or Vermont, where these documents are not permitted. A special note about California is that all wills are considered "self-proved" once the will is properly signed and executed by the testator and all of the proper witnesses. In Louisiana, it must be noted that signing your Will in the presence of the witnesses before a notary public is a requirement. A Self-Proving Affidavit will makes it unnecessary for your witnesses to appear in court during probate to affirm your Will’s validity after your death. The Affidavit can possibly save your beneficiaries and witnesses considerable inconvenience by not having them attend court. It also gives your Will an extra protection layer of authentication that may help your beneficiaries avoid a costly and long probate process.
Witnesses must be in your immediate presence and must physically observe your actual signing of the Will, and all the witnesses must physically observe the other witnesses signing the Will. You do not need to read your Will to the witnesses, and it is unnecessary for them to read it. The witnesses, however, must clearly understand that the document is your Last Will and Testament. You must clearly explain to them that you desire and intend the document to function as your Last Will upon your death. If your state permits a Self-Proving Affidavit, and if you elect to attach one to your Will (recommended in states that allow), remember that the same witnesses who observed your signing the Will must also observe your signing the Self-Proving Affidavit. It is also a must to have the notary present at the signing of your Will, and then the notary should sign the Will and the Self-Proving Affidavit at the same ceremony. Store your Will in a safe place, and inform your executor and alternate executor of its location and access for your will upon your death.
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