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A Last Will and Testament is a legally binding document that stipulates how a person's assets, including real estate, personal property, and investments, are distributed after the person dies. This document is commonly referred to as a Last Will or Will. After the form is created and signed, in front of two witnesses, the will should be shared with all beneficiaries. It is not required for wills to be filed with the state but certain counties allow this to be done.

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Free Last Will and Testament

Common Questions

About Last Will and Testament

A last will and testament is a legal document that details how a person’s assets and properties will be distributed after their death.  This legal document can also detail custody and guardianship details for the surviving children if necessary.  Since today’s world also has many technological aspects, digital assets can now also be included in a last will and testament.

When completing a last will and testament, you will need to have a clear idea about what you want to happen to your financial and real estate assets.  You should have personal information for the party’s that will be receiving these assets in the event of your death.  If you have the information you need, you can create a will without the assistance of a lawyer.  

What You Need to Know

For many people, having a last will and testament in place provides a sense of satisfaction and security. When people consider creating a last will and testament, however, they often jump to conclusions about how the process works. First, many individuals assume that a last will and testament form can only be made legal by working with an attorney. Because of this assumption, people think the creation of this important document is out of their reach because of the expense often associated with legal assistance. The truth is, this assumptions is wrong. Completing a last will and testament template is something you can do yourself for minimal cost. When you look at the consequences of not having a will in place, it quickly becomes clear that you can't afford not to have one.

Dying without a will is known in the legal world as dying "intestate". Essentially, if you have not made your wishes known and legally binding through a will, the state will decide how your property is divided. If you have a spouse or legally recognized partner but no children, then they receive all of your property. If you have children, or have no legal partner, the distribution of the estate has the potential to become confusing. In extreme instances, everything you own could become the property of the state, simply because there was no legally binding will at the time of death.

Now that you know a last will and testament template can be completed without an attorney, should you do it on your own? That answer is determined mostly by your unique situation. It's a question only you can answer. If your estate is large, your property is diversified, or your wishes are highly specific, you should consult an attorney regarding your will. However, having a last will and testament form in place at all times is the only way to ensure your wishes are followed by the probate court. You should never let a lack of money for attorney fees prevent you from creating having a legally-binding last will and testament. Fortunately, sample last will and testament forms and our last will and testament template can help you execute a legally binding agreement that provides you peace of mind for years to come. As your personal situation changes over the years, you may need to revisit your last will and testament and make necessary charges to continue to ensure that your property is given out in the way that you want.

Before you start browsing sample last will and testament forms, make sure you know your state's specific requirements for a will. What steps are essential to make a will legally binding. Each state has different requirements on whether or not a handwritten will is acceptable, how many witnesses you need, who can act as a witness, and if you need a notary. Make sure you meet all of your state's requirements; otherwise, your will could be bypassed or declared invalid.

When you decide to create your own will, one safe and easy way is to use our professional last will and testament template. It provides you with the security of a tried and true format, as well as the ability to personalize your will as needed. While you will still need to ensure that all state requirements are met, creating your last will and testament using our template is an easy way to make sure that those you love will be cared for after your death.

Components of a Last Will and Testament

You'll recall from the introduction that the purpose of a last will and testament is to ensure that your loved ones and the court know how you'd like all of your assets distributed when you die. You'll also recall learning that each state has its own laws about exactly what must go into a will. Those state specific requirements make your will legally binding in probate court. Yet, there are many components that belong in every will regardless of the state that you live in when it is created. However, if you move to another state and become a resident of the new state, you may need to rewrite your will under the new state laws. Fortunately, using our template makes that easy to do. In this section, you'll learn about the common components found in a last will and testament.

With any last will and testament template, it is absolutely essential that you fully identify yourself not just by your full legal name, but by date of birth, social security number, and address, as well. You also must make it clear that you are in a legal position to make a will.; This means that you are of "sound mind,", that you are a legal adult in your state or that you meet a state's exception for being a minor and completing a will (such as being a member of the military), and that no one is influencing you or forcing you to write it.

You need to know the legal name of the person that you want to name as administrator or executor of your estate. This person will be legally responsible for upholding what your will says. They need to be a legal adult. They do not have to be related to you. Also, your executor usually cannot sign your will as a witness. You should also have a back-up person named in your will just in case your named executor cannot or refuses to perform those duties.

You also need certain information about the people you wish to leave your assets to in your will. These individuals are usually referred to as "beneficiaries" or "heirs." You will need their legal names and their birth dates. You will also want to specify if there are certain items from your estate that you want certain people (or organizations) to have. For example, if you have a wedding set that was handed down for five generations, you'd want to name a someone to take it so that it reduces the likelihood of fighting over it.

You can also discuss who should not receive anything from your estate. You can list them specifically and you can even list why. One common reason stated is when an adult child who is of sound mind is routinely helped by the person named in the will, the person may decide that the adult child already received part or all of their inheritance.

If you have minor children, you should list them by name and include their date of birth. You should name the person that you would like to act as guardian if you die. This is particularly important if you are a single parent and have sole legal and physical custody of the child. Without naming a guardian, your minor child could become a ward of the state or may be sent to live with someone they don't know or trust. This is equally important if you have a child (whether they are a minor or an adult) that is developmentally delayed and cannot live on their own.

Sometimes, minor children inherit the estate of their parent. However, they may not be able to legally own or use many of the assets. So, those items are often placed in a trust until the children reach a certain age. You can name a Trustee or the court may appoint one. Keep in mind that the Trustee is legally entitled to a reasonable payment for their services.

Of course, you don't need a minor child or a child with special needs to set up a trust as part of your will. You could do this for many reasons. Trusts can offer a lot of tax benefits for you, but sometimes they can "punish" your heirs in the form of tax. So, it's important for you to talk with a financial planner, tax expert, or lawyer before you use this component.

Most wills require you have at least one witness who watches you sign your last will and testament. Many states require two witnesses. Your state will have a law on who can sign as a witness. Witnesses must be legal adults. In many states, your witnesses cannot be someone receiving something from your will and they cannot be your executor, co-executor, or back-up executor.

Generally, wills must be notarized. If you live in a state that requires a will to be notarized, you and your witnesses should not sign it until you are in front of a notary.

The final component to a will is a codicil. A codicil is a change to your will. Instead of rewriting an entire will, many people use a codicil to make a change. It could be used to write someone in or out of a will. It could be used to add or remove specific assets from a will. Codicils take less time to create and usually only require you to initial next to them.

Do You Need a Will?

The short answer is yes. If you are a legal adult, you need a last will and testament. It doesn't matter if you aren't considered rich. A will can help reduce any fighting between family members who would like to have certain items that you own when you die. How a last will and testament can work for you depends on your life circumstances, but you definitely need one.

Do You Need an Attorney?

You aren't required to hire a lawyer to create your will. However, it is best to seek legal counsel regarding the best course of action for planning your estate, given your financial circumstances. If you decide to do this on your own, there are many DIY books and online resources that can help you to do so (see our last will and testament form above).

Argument for Not Creating Your Own Will

A lot can go wrong if you do it yourself. Since a will is a legal document, it requires the appropriate elements required in your state. Improper terminology may nullify your document. There are other legal technicalities regarding signatures, witnesses, etc., that, if not done properly, can invalidate the will. The lawyer's job, therefore, is to ensure you navigate the will creation process properly and avoid any hiccups. You could also create a costly tax situation for your estate or for your heirs if you don't get proper tax guidance. You can also learn what you can do before your death to reduce the tax burden of your estate and for your heirs.

Download a PDF or Word Template

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