Step-by step method to write your own last will and testament

From ArticleWorld

A lot of people try to avoid the unpleasantness of getting there will completed. Don’t be one of those people. However, if your are one of the few who want to write their wills themselves then precede with caution. It is not a so good idea, but if you still want to go through with it here are some guidelines.


The truth is, it is more sound intellectually and financially to hire a lawyer to draft your will. To have your will done by an attorney could cost you as little as $500 dollars. Although, there are computer programs and forms you can buy to help you compose your will the money could be better spent on hiring a lawyer. Finding a lawyer can be relatively simple if you look in the yellow pages to find your local bar association. That said, for those of you who still wish to do their will themselves here are the facts.

  • Write your name and present address. There could be other people with your name, that is why the street address is important.
  • Next, write the day you were born and your SSN# should be in your will.
  • In your will, state that you are dismissing all other wills and codicils you may have had executed before.
  • You will need to have a personal representative. This person will carry out your instructions and be the head of your estate after you die. Be warned that every state has different rules. Yet, in most states your personal representative has to be living in the same state as you, and beyond the age of 18.
  • You must make sure to give your executor the power to pay off your debs, funeral expenses, taxes and be estate administration expenses. The latter part is important because who you are leaving your possessions to can take what is theirs without any complications or deductions
  • You must also make sure to give your executor the authority to divest of any real estate in which you have a stack upon your death. They will need to either lease, pledge or mortgage your property. Also, your executor needs to be able to handle the business with your real estate agent as you yourself would want.
  • Make sure that you label your items properly. You want to be precise because you want to make sure that the person you wanted to get certain item to gets it.
  • You need to separate your assets in terms of percentage. To do this you need to record your family and friends and your percentages: if you have done it correctly it should all total to 100%. An example is if you were to write: I leave my brother, John Holden 10% of my assets.

More facts

  • You will need to make clear who will be the recipient of a gift if the person you will part of your estate to dies. For example, “To my brother, John Holden, I leave 10% if he survives me; if not the share meant for John Holden will go to his son, John Holden II, if he survives John Holden and myself; if not the gift will lapse.
  • You might have to qualify your language if you want a recipient’s gift to go back into your estate. For example, “To my brother, John Holden, I leave 10% should he survive me.” To not use this precise language exactly will cause his gift to be drawn back into your estate.
  • You will need a residuary clause which is what you have not specifically given to anyone and so it automatically goes back into your estate. For example, “If there are any assets in my estate remaining but not limited to real property, personal property, causes of action or any other assets, or whatsoever nature, where so ever situation, I give, bequeath, and devise such residue to, then put whomever you wish.
  • You must be very detailed about how your personal representative will be paid. You can give an exact quote of the amount or let them be reimbursed for their time.
  • If your personal representative needs to post bond be clear about it. If you do not state clearly that you do not want this for your executor state, “The executor will serve without bond.” Bond premiums are expensive and some people don’t want to be bothered with them, while others think of it as good insurance.
  • Choose an alternative executor, you first one might die or be injured seriously.
  • Sign your will properly. You will need a witness there when you do it and they must sign your will also. It is important that it is dealt with like this because it helps to prove that your will is valid and it is also the law.
  • Make sure your will is put away in a safe place. Only your executor needs to know where your will is hidden. If necessary give your executor a copy or make another original for them.
  • If you need to make some more changes to your will later on, after you are done, do it by “codicil”. The codicil is a document separate from the will that plainly refers back to the original will.
  • If you have heirs that are disable you will need to hire an attorney that specializes in “special needs trusts.”
  • A lawyer will be needed if your will states that your beneficiaries will be given payments off your estate over time.
  • The will must deal with only material goods that are under your name alone when you die. Therefore, have an estate plan that is good and that deals with how accounts are titled, if you want things to go as you wish.
  • In your will only talk about your assets in terms of percentages. Material items you might have now can disappear at a later date.


When signing your will do it in blue it so that it bleeds over on to photocopies. Talk to a lawyer about “self-proving affidavits” which are one-page and that helps to track down witnesses after your death. Your will goes through a probate when you die. This is what happens to all wills when they wish to be admitted to the courts. A lawyer can help you get out of probate proceedings which can be expensive and annoying.

Also, remember that this article is not to be replaced with good legal advice. It is advised that you consult with a lawyer, and one who is qualified and certified in Elder Law or estate planning. Lastly, be careful of forms. On the market now are software packages and will forms that are terrible and useless even the popular ones.