Writing your own will is a process that does not need to cost money. If you have limited assets and straightforward child custody plans or no minor children, making your own will free of charge may be an option for you. If you have a complex financial portfolio or your children will require special care or financial arrangements, however, you may wish to speak to an experienced attorney in your state about the details of your will.
Choose a personal representative. A personal representative is responsible for taking legal control of your assets and debts and wrapping up your estate when you die. A personal representative also represents the estate in probate court. Many people choose a spouse, relative or close friend to serve as a personal representative, but you may choose any competent individual who is 18 years old or older. You may also wish to designate a secondary personal representative in case your first choice is unwilling or unable to serve when the time comes. If you do not choose a personal representative, the court will choose for you in most states.
Read More: How to Write My Own Will
Describe at least one of your personal assets or belongings and state who should receive it. Although you may distribute all of your personal assets and belongings in your will, you must distribute at least one thing in order for your will to be valid in most states. You may distribute items in groups. For instance, you may write that you are leaving your spouse all your household furniture.
Choose a guardian for your children if you have one or more children under age 18. The guardian may be any competent person over 18 years of age in most states. The guardian takes physical and legal custody of the children if both parents are deceased or unavailable and is responsible for raising them and ensuring their daily needs are met. You may wish to ask a person's permission before you appoint him as guardian for your children, and you may wish to appoint an alternative guardian if your first choice becomes unable or unwilling to take the children after your death. The court will appoint a guardian for your children if you do not name one or if the one you choose cannot perform the duties of a guardian.
Sign and date your will at the bottom. You should sign and date your will in the presence of at least two witnesses, both of whom must be competent adults 18 years old or older. If you are in Vermont, you will need three witnesses. After watching you sign your will, the witnesses should also sign and date the will below your signature. Although you may have a notary public serve as a witness, notarization is not a substitute for the required number of witnesses in most states.
Keep your will in a safe place, such as a fire safe or a safe deposit box. You may wish to leave a copy with a trusted friend or relative. If you make any copies of your will, mark them clearly with the word "copy." You may also wish to add instructions that explain where the original will can be found.
You may type your will on a typewriter or word processor or write it by hand. In some states, a handwritten will -- also known as a "holographic" will -- may be accepted by a court even if it is not witnessed. Consult an attorney in your state about the validity of a holographic will, or ensure that you have witnesses watch you sign your will and sign their own names once the will is complete.
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.