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How To Make A Will: What You Need To Know

Updated on February 12, 2013
How to make a will is something everyone should know how to do.
How to make a will is something everyone should know how to do. | Source

Making a will is a huge responsibility and one of the most important things that you will do in your life. It can be difficult to think forward to when you will die, but it also ensures that your estate is handled smoothly.

Trying to figure out how to make a will can be a complex and stressful experience. There are many different things to consider. The legal aspects of making a will can be fraught with technicalities and if this is not done right it can make your will easy to contest in court and it can either bring your family together or break it apart.

What Is A Will?

The purpose of a will is to give the court (and the world) information about your estate. The object of a will is to tell the court who you want to administer your estate and to whom and where you want the estate to be distributed to. Without a will, the courts will decide how to divide up your assets after your death. There is a truism that applies to wills: "If you don’t have a will the state will have one for you".

Having your estate settled in court can be a very lengthy, costly and sometimes messy affair and your family can come out of it the looser. For this reason it is always advisable to make a will… even if you think that you don’t need one.

Sometimes people erroneously believe that they don’t have any assets so why bother with a will, but what if you have small children? Have you considered who will be their guardian should both you and your spouse pass on at the same time? These are things every person should consider before making a will.

When you make a will make sure you do it right to prevent serious legal issues for your family after you are gone.
When you make a will make sure you do it right to prevent serious legal issues for your family after you are gone. | Source

Important Note

Everyone’s situation is different. We all have different assets as well as different familial circumstances; you can be rich or poor, own a house and a car or own a farm, you can be married with three children or single or divorced. Situations vary and therefore making a will will vary too.

This article should not be taken as legal advice for any person or issue. There are many different aspects of your personal situation that will affect your will and it is therefore prudent to seek the best legal advice. Choosing an estate attorney is an important decision and should be taken seriously.

How To Make A Will

If you are ready to make a will, the following points will help guide you in the process.

Legal Advice

Get the best legal advice that you can get or can afford. The reason for this is that estate laws differ from state to state and country to country. These laws are also constantly changing and everyone’s personal situation is unique. Unless you are up to date with these laws, it can be costly to your estate and to your dependants.

Wills mean probate, which is the official proving of a will as authentic or valid in a Probate Court. Good lawyers can sometimes tell you how to avoid probate as this is, in many cases, an aggravation and expense that you do not need.

Make sure that you divide your estate clearly in your will to avoid problems.
Make sure that you divide your estate clearly in your will to avoid problems. | Source

How To Divide Up Your Estate

Your kids get along fine when you’re around but when your estate is read all that niceness can go out the proverbial window. Before you know it they can start fighting over who is going to get your favourite chair, your wedding ring or the painting at the end of the hall, and that’s not even taking money into account yet.

It is a natural aspect of the grieving process for everyone to want something to remember you by and the disagreements will start when everyone wants the same things.

It is therefore important to divide everything up beforehand in your will and to be very specific. Discuss this with your beneficiaries and find out what everyone wants and stipulate this in your will. This will go a long way to prevent any bickering the day after your funeral.

Remember to be as specific as possible. If you are going to leave a million dollars to your kids, how should it be divided? Percentages are helpful and so are semantics, grammar and phrasing. A good lawyer will help you with this.

With that being said, make sure that your will is updated regularly especially after major changes in your life; both personal and financial.

Choose an executor who has good financial know-how to execute your will.
Choose an executor who has good financial know-how to execute your will. | Source

Who Should You Appoint As Executor?

Choosing an executor for your estate requires a lot of thought. For example, if you appoint your eldest child as the executor, will the other kids be upset as they (the appointed executor) will receive the executor’s fees?

An executor can be anyone, from your spouse to one of your children to your great uncle Charlie. Many times it’s better to get someone outside your immediate family as your loss can take its toll on your family and having the added pressure of being executor can make their grieving worse.

That being said; choose an executor that will make good financial decisions. If you get an attorney, get one who practices in wills and trusts.

Helpful Advice

Revise your will every 3 to 5 years as well as when there are births, deaths, marriages, divorces, remarriages, or sales and acquisitions of assets, etc.

You should consult your attorney if you intend moving to another state as estate laws can vary from state to state.

Make your funeral arrangements on a separate document as your will will not be read until after your funeral.

A will only governs the assets that are in your name only and you should therefore make sure that your assets are titled to be included in your will.

Writing Your Own Will

There are circumstances where you either cannot get your will done by a law firm, or for whatever reason prefer not to. If you have decided that this is the case then there are specific formats, language and procedures that must be followed. Do your research well and be aware that there many risks attached to this course of action.

You can also find good advice in the following books:

Making a will can be a simple and life-enhancing experience if you consider the above information. The conclusion of your estate is something that can either tear your family apart or bring them even closer and You can go a long way to make it the latter. How to make a will is something everyone should know how to do and I hope that this article has given you a fair idea on how to get started.


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    • Trinity M profile imageAUTHOR

      Trinity M 

      6 years ago

      Thanks Christy, always nice to see you and to get your kind praise. Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting.

      @shininirisheyes I am so sorry for your loss, it is never easy to loose a parent. I agree with you though that it is the best gift a parent can give their children which is primarily the reason I wrote this hub. Thank you so much for stopping by and for sharing your story, it is greatly appreciated.

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 

      6 years ago from Upstate, New York

      I am glad you wrote this informative hub and hope more read it. The best gift my parents gave to my siblings and I was a will. No - not because of monetary gain - my Mom is still alive and I am greatful for that. Whne my Dad passed, it was heartbreaking enough and there were so many details we handled. The one we didn;t have to worry about was Mom's finances. Also, my parents appointed my sister as executor and this was another great favor they paid my brother and I. She is best in this regard and we rest a bit easier knowing she will be handling it. Mom sleeps better at night.

      Great write.

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 

      6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Another useful addition to your other hub on Wills. Way to go, you have much information to share with us!

    • Trinity M profile imageAUTHOR

      Trinity M 

      6 years ago

      A young guy like you billybuc??? Seriously though, as a parent I feel that it is now my duty to be responsible for the sake of my son which is why I broached this topic. Thank you for your comments and for always stopping by.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      All excellent points and suggestions. I have not done a will yet but I probably should get with the program, don't you think? It's not like I'm getting any younger! :) Thanks for the suggestions and advice, written in a way that I can easily understand.

    • Trinity M profile imageAUTHOR

      Trinity M 

      6 years ago

      @jentaylorsc so sorry to hear about your father’s passing. It’s always wonderful when families come together under such difficult circumstances, kudos to you and your brother.

      I’m glad to be able to help in a small way and glad that my article has been able to help you. Thank so much for your kind comments, I really appreciate the feedback.

      @Petra Vlah as I mentioned in my article, laws vary from state to state and country to country. If in your state / country you can just make a will on a piece of paper and have it signed that’s great. I always say nothing beats getting proper legal advice; my article is just a guide to give people an idea on how to get started. Thank you for stopping by and for your comments.

    • Petra Vlah profile image

      Petra Vlah 

      6 years ago from Los Angeles

      I heard that if you write your own will on a regular peice of paper and sign it in front of a notary public in the presence of 2 witnesses IT IS perfectly legal and it should be no problems.

    • jentaylorsc profile image


      6 years ago

      Thank you for this informative article on writing a will. My father recently passed away several months ago, and he and my mom didn't have a will. Luckily, my dad's sudden death brought my brother and me closer together, and we were able to divide up family heirlooms and such without any arguments (which I know is quite rare).

      I think this is really useful as I am thinking of my own will, and this helps me know where to start in the planning process. Thanks again for this.


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