If your estate is small or you do not have minor children, you may decide to write your own will and testament. A DIY will and testament can be legal, as long as it meets the requirements for valid wills in your state. Consulting an attorney can help clarify the specific instructions in your state's laws for making a will.
When making your own will, first consider what assets you have as well as what your debts are. Your assets are the items you will leave to the people you put in your will, while some or all of your debts will have to be paid out of the assets you leave behind. Making a detailed list of what you have and what needs to be paid can help you decide who should get what and also give you a chance to tackle your debt before you die.
Your beneficiaries are the people who will receive some or all of your property when you die. Most personal property, like household goods and heirlooms, can be left to whomever you choose in your will. In some states, however, you may not be able to write your current spouse or your children out of your will entirely. Also, some of your assets, like jointly owned property and life insurance policies, will go directly to the beneficiaries or joint owners without going through your will first. Consider who will receive these assets along with considering who should receive your property through your will.
Your executor is the person who will pay your bills and give your property to the people listed in your will when you die. Therefore, your executor should be someone you trust. Many people choose to list their spouse or a parent as their executor. Also, you may wish to name a second option for executor in your will in case something happens and the first executor can't or won't serve after you die.
Writing Your Will
Nearly all U.S. states require a will to be in writing in most cases. You may use any kind of paper to write your will, though many people choose standard printer paper or lined notebook paper. You may also use the preprinted will forms available in some stationery shops. Your will should state that it is your last will and that it revokes any previous wills, and it should have the day, month and year written on it. At the bottom of the final page of your will, sign your will and write the date beside your signature.
Witnesses and Notarization
Most U.S. states require all wills to be witnessed by two people. The state of Vermont requires three witnesses instead of two, and the state of Louisiana requires only one witness but also requires a notary in addition to the witness. Your witnesses should sign your will below your signature and write the date. Some states also require the witnesses to write a short statement saying they know who you are and watched you sign. Make sure your witnesses meet your state's requirements for valid witnesses, including age requirements, before you have them sign.
A.L. Kennedy is a professional grant writer and nonprofit consultant. She has been writing and editing for various nonfiction publications since 2004. Her work includes various articles on nonprofit law, human resources, health and fitness for both print and online publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of South Alabama.