Learning how to write a will may feel like a daunting task—but it’s one of the most important steps you can take in preparing for your future. Although writing a will can be an emotionally-draining process, creating your own last will and testament is an opportunity to outline your final wishes and desires. Setting up a will is also a gift to your family and loved ones as it saves them stress, confusion, and uncertainty.
From bequeathing cherished items to your loved ones to selecting your beneficiaries, writing a will is an extremely helpful way to reduce any legal hassles or quarrels that might arise after your passing. If you’re interested in learning how to write a legal will, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of everything you need to know.
Setting up a will doesn’t need to be a highly complicated endeavor. Although most traditional wills are made by lawyers, it’s easy to learn how to create a will without a lawyer in today’s modern world.
If you’re wondering how to draw up a will, bear in mind that you’ll need to follow your state’s legal requirements for a last will and testament. You can also find easy-to-follow templates based on your state and country.
So, how is a will created? You can start by doing the following:
When it comes to where to draw up a will, you no longer need to spend hours at your lawyer’s office—instead, you can learn how to create a simple will from the comfort of your own home. All you need is a template, kit, or access to an online will-maker template.
One element to keep in mind: Although writing out your will by hand might seem like a straightforward option, it’s not recommended. Known as a holographic will, a handwritten will can be difficult to prove in court and lead to further challenges and stressors for your family and loved ones. Opt for a digital will and save your family time and stress.
Wondering how to create a will online? There are a plethora of online resources available to assist you as you learn how to create a last will and testament. There are several online companies, such as Nolo.com, LawDepot.com, and Legalzoom.com, which allow you to create a will from the comfort of your home.
When you select one of these services, you’ll be walked through a series of questions to help you figure out how to write a will. Then, you’ll have to print it out and get it signed by at least two witnesses—more on that below! Most online will programs will allow you to edit the document or make additions over time, so if you end up wanting to adjust anything, it’s easy to do so.
The cost of making your will online typically ranges from $20 to $100 but ultimately depends on the service you select. Compared to the cost of a lawyer, creating your own will online tends to be a much more cost-effective option.
Knowing how to create a legal will in your state, specifically, is an important step. Will-related laws vary state by state—and some states don’t accept the same will format or template that others do. This can lead to confusing and frustrating disparities in the process; for example, a holographic will (written entirely by hand) is valid in Texas but not in Florida.
Additionally, property laws in each state can differ greatly. In a common-law state, a spouse’s property is considered individually owned; however, in a community property state, any asset acquired during a marriage is considered community property. These two differences in state property laws can lead to shifts in how your assets are distributed after your death—and important information to keep in mind as you create your own legal will.
How do you make sure that your will covers all the bases? Well, if you’re planning to move in your golden years or settle down somewhere new, spend some time reviewing all wills-related laws. We’d even recommend reaching out to an in-state attorney to ensure that your will and testament will be accepted without confusion.
Once you’ve understood your state’s will-related laws and property laws, it’s time to select an executor for your will. An executor is a party responsible for ensuring that all of the wishes expressed in your will are carried out after your passing. Executors can either be an individual or an institution, such as a bank, trust, or company.
Being someone’s executor can be an intensive process, especially with complicated or drawn-out probate processes. For these reasons, attorneys or financial advisors can be a great choice to serve as your personal representative. Most people writing wills typically choose friends or family members—but opting for someone outside of your family can be a better choice. If you do ask a family member or long-time friend to serve as your will’s executor, consider offering them financial compensation for their time and effort.
If you don’t name an executor in your will, the court will automatically appoint one on your behalf.
Finally, each state has regulations on who can be an executor—so before you sign on the dotted line and name your will executor, do a bit of research to ensure that you’re squared away with your state’s legal requirements.
Once you’ve chosen your will executor, it’s time to select your beneficiaries. A beneficiary is an individual or an entity that you’d like to pass your estate to after your death—and as you figure out how to write a will, you’ll need to designate your assets to your beneficiaries.
As you begin to consider your beneficiaries, determine which assets you’ll need to divide up:
In your will, you’ll also need to designate guardianship for any dependents. By definition, a dependent is a child or relative that relies on you as their primary source of income—regardless of age. This includes not only any dependent children you have but also elderly parents or other individuals that you provide care for.
As you write your will, take some time to determine who should receive guardianship of your dependents. While you’re not legally required to ask permission from a prospective guardian before naming them in your will, it’s best to have a conversation with them notifying them about this stipulation.
In your will, you can also name alternate guardians in the case that your first (or even second) choice is unable to fulfill the responsibilities. If you don’t appoint a new guardian, the court will appoint someone which can lead to further complications.
It’s best to have open, transparent conversations with your dependents if they’re old enough about who you plan to appoint as a future guardian—so everyone is well-prepared and confident about the future.
Next up, it’s time to consider all of your assets and determine how you wish all of your assets to be divided upon your death. If you’re wondering, how long does it take to create a will? Considering all of your assets is certainly one of the most time-consuming sections of your will.
Remember: It’s completely normal—and even encouraged!—to ask family members if there are any particular items that they specifically want. By having an open conversation about items that are important or sentimental to your family, you can ensure that your family has the mementos that mean the most to them after your passing.
Include personalized messages in your will. Just because you’re writing a legal document doesn’t mean it must be completely objective and sterile—in fact, you’re free to include personalized messages in regard to your assets and bequeathing items to your beneficiaries.
For your friends and family, including personalized messages in your will and last testament can be a heartfelt and meaningful way to connect with your people even after your passing. Additionally, including personalized messages can help clarify your last wishes.
Although it’s certainly possible to include your funeral arrangements in your will, you’ll need to include a separate copy of your funeral arrangements that’s easily accessible upon your death.
However, in most cases, it can feel natural and complete to include special requests or directions about handling your death. This can range from how you want your remains disposed of, where you’d like to be buried, or what kind of memorial service you’d prefer.
Everdays makes planning for your funeral arrangements and final wishes simple, straightforward, and seamless.
Your free account gives you access to your entirely personalized Final Wishes plan, where you can make decisions about the types of services, venues, resting place, and more. Then, give your loved ones instant digital access—so they’ll have all the details they need whenever the time comes, saving everyone stress and uncertainty during the process of loss.Click here to get started with your free plan
You’re almost there! Once you’ve gone through the process of dividing up assets and selecting beneficiaries, it’s time to finalize your will with notarization and witnesses.
Another part of learning how to write a will is keeping it up to date. In fact, updating your will throughout your life is completely normal and encouraged.
Storing your will safely is an important step in the process. If your will cannot be found after your death, it can’t be filed—so making sure that your loved ones and friends can easily locate your will after your passing is vital.
One of the easiest ways to ensure that your will isn’t misplaced is to store your will at a safe in your home or in a safety deposit box at your local bank. You can also share your will with your attorney or financial advisor for safekeeping and easy access when the time comes.
You may have additional estate planning documents that extend beyond your will.
Our content is created for educational purposes only. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Everdays encourages individuals to seek advice from their own investment or tax advisor or legal counsel.