How to Draw Up a Simple Will

By Jackie Whalen
This I leave to you

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Dying intestate, or without a will, means that the state will make decisions for you regarding your property and minor children. Creating a simple will ensures that upon your death, your wishes are carried out. Making a will is an act of love for those you leave behind, and neglecting to make one puts your family and property at risk.

Create a list of your family members and assets. Make an outline of what you hope to accomplish by making this will. Think about who you want to be a guardian for your minor children, or the executor of your estate.

Begin writing the will. A will must include your name and a statement that you are creating this will. The most common phrase used is "I, [your name], being of sound mind and body, hereby create this last will and testament."

Name a guardian. If you have minor children and their other parent is dead or incapacitated, you need to designate a guardian to provide for their care and well being. You should also name an alternate guardian in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to take on the responsibility.

Bequeath your property. Be specific when naming a relative or friend to receive property or an asset. Use the person's full name and state what their relationship is to you.

Establish trusts. A trust is a business arrangement in which money or property is managed by a trustee to benefit someone else. You can establish trusts to benefit your minor children, a friend, charities, your alma mater and even your pets.

Cancel debts. You can cancel debts owed to you, if you wish, in your will.

Name an executor. An executor is a person appointed by you to carry out the terms of your will. The executor represents the estate and makes sure it is disposed of according to the terms set forth by you.

Sign your will. The will must contain your signature and date. Witnesses must also be present to sign the will. Each state requires a different number of witnesses. A witness should not be a beneficiary named in the will.

Store the will in a safe place. Have your attorney or friend keep a copy of the will or store it in a safe deposit box.

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About the Author

Based in Buffalo, N.Y., Jackie Whalen has been writing since 2007. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in religious studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is currently a third-year law student.

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