- Personal Finance
How to Do Your Own Will For Free
The last thing that most of us want to think about is what will happen to all of our possessions when we pass away. Sadly though, thousands of people die each year without the benefit of a legal will. This issue can add enormous stress to an already grieving family who must then tangle with state probate courts over assets and possessions which should rightfully remain with the deceased’s survivors. These legal battles are often costly, time consuming, and many times ruled in favor of the state over the family.
Despite what most people believe, preparing your own last will and testament is not very difficult and can be accomplished rather quickly. In fact, unless you are a business owner or have special tax considerations, you really should consider making your own will versus paying expensive legal fees. Lawyers generally start out by using a generic will template that can be obtained by anyone. State laws and Last Will and Testament form templates are freely available on many Internet sites making the task easy with just a little research. I have listed a few resource links below to help you get started. The most important thing is to check your individual state laws and guidelines for preparing a will. With just a little preparation you will know how to make your own will for free.
State Laws and Legal Wills
Each state within the United States has its own specific laws and criteria for what constitutes a legal and binding will. All states stipulate that the person making the will be of legal age (18 and over) and be in a sound state of mind. This means that if you are being treated for any type of mental (and sometimes psychological) illness, you should contact an attorney before making your will. These facts must be attested to when drawing up the will. Also, it is a requirement to have witnesses present to sign the document once it is completed. Here again, states differ on witness requirements. Most states want at least two witnesses, whereas a few allow for only one. Also, depending on the state, the witnesses may need to be individuals with no vested interest.
States can be very specific when it comes to how the will is produced. For instance, Florida and Colorado require that all wills be typed or printed from a computer to be considered valid. States such as Louisiana and Kentucky allow for handwritten wills as long as they contain the information required by state law. The majority of states do not recognize oral type wills, but a few will under certain circumstances. Primarily, oral wills are reserved for deployed military members and merchant mariners. In any event, wills do not have to contain a lot of legal jargon, but rather simply state what your desires are for your possessions, as well as the custodial wishes for any minor children under your care. You can use just about any generic will template to make your own will for free, just adapt it to your specific needs.
What Should Be In a Will?
What you decide to put in your will is strictly up to you. However, there are a few things which you want to make sure you designate. There have been countless numbers of families that have been needlessly ripped apart by the death of a loved one and the squabbles that ensue from inheritance issues. These problems can largely be avoided when you take the time to prepare your own will.
Here are a few items you want to make sure you spell out in your will:
- Identifying information is a crucial part of any will. There should be no doubt as to who the will is for. You should include your full name to include any suffixes, your social security number, date of birth and current physical address.
- Designate someone you trust to be the executor of your will. This person will be responsible for making sure your final instructions regarding your estate are carried out like you intended, so they need to be competent.
- If you have any minor children, make sure you appoint a guardian to take care of them in the event of your death. You should make sure you revise your will as your children reach legal age.
- If you own a home or other real estate property, be sure to stipulate whether you want the property to go to a specific person or organization, or be liquidated (sold) with the proceeds divided among your designees.
- It is also important to designate, by name, any person or organization you want to receive any high dollar value items or heirlooms.
- Monetary assets should be designated by percentages to the recipients. If you want your spouse to get all the money in your bank account, then list them at 100%. If you want to split it between two children, then show it as “child 1 - 50%, child 2 - 50%” and so forth.
Resources for Preparing Your Will
- US Legal Forms - Last Will
Does it really matter if you have a Will or Last will and testament? Find out here and download your state specific forms from the orginal and premiere provider.
- State Wills Laws - FindLaw
Find information on State Wills Laws, codes and statutes at FindLaw
- LegalZoom: State Laws on Last Wills and Trusts
The laws on last wills and trusts are similar across states, but each state has slightly different requirements. The laws are codified in each state’s probate code. Though most states will ...
When to Have a Lawyer Prepare Your Will
As easy as it is to complete a simple will on your own, there are instances where this type of will won’t be adequate. If you happen to be a business owner with a lot of assets in addition to your personal estate, then more in-depth legal concerns call for the advice from an attorney. Also, if you are leaving behind a sizable inheritance, then there may be estate taxes or inheritance taxes that will need to be considered. Basically, if you see any type of special financial concerns for your beneficiaries, then you need to seek the expertise of a lawyer who specializes in your situation.
Summing It Up
I am not an attorney, nor am I attempting to give any specific legal advice. This article is intended to offer information on how easy it is to actually make your own will for free. By all means, if you feel more comfortable having a lawyer prepare your will, then do so. The bottom line is everyone needs to have a will. You owe it to yourself and your family to ensure that everything you have worked so hard for in this life is properly handled and designated once you pass away.