A last will and testament is a legal document that specifies who the testator would like to receive his/her property at the time of death. A will must be in writing to be valid. A will that is entirely in the handwriting of the testator and is signed and dated is known as a holographic will and is valid in many states. A will that is signed and dated by the testator and is witnessed by at least two disinterested parties is easily understood and hard to invalidate.
Hand write or type the beginning of a will, which contains the name of the testator and the county and state in which they presently reside. The document must be identified as the testator's last will and testament, using language similar to the following example: "I, James Smith do hereby make, and declare this to be my Last Will and Testament, hereby revoking all Wills and Codicils at any time heretofore made by me."
List the full proper name of each beneficiary and the property the testator would like given to them at their death. If specific items are devised to an individual, it is important to be very detailed in the explanation of the item. For example, "I will, devise and bequeath my 2010 Cadillac Escalade with VIN # JFKDSLIENGIO123 to my son, Walter Smith." The testator can list each specific item and the intended recipient as a separate item number or paragraph number of the will for clarity purposes. If the testator wants all of his/her property to go to one individual (as in husband-wife situations), the testator would list that "all of his/her property both real, personal and mixed of whatsoever kind and nature to my beloved wife, Mary Smith."
Appoint a responsible person as executor of the estate. This person supervises, prepares and files the necessary documents with probate court after the testator dies. The executor can receive a portion of the estate as payment for their services or may be a beneficiary or surviving spouse of the testator.
Properly execute the will by initialing each page and signing the will at the end of the document. Two uninterested witnesses should also sign in the presence of the testator and each other. It is best not to have a beneficiary or a family member who could benefit from the will serve as a witness. Therefore, at the time of signing, the testator and two witnesses should be in the same room to sign the will. In some states there is a paragraph at the end of the will that is signed by the testator and notarized by a notary public for the state that affirms that the testator is of sound mind and not under the influence of another person. States have different requirements regarding a will being signed by a notary public.
- As with all legal documents, a licensed attorney should be consulted prior to the completion and signing of a document.
- The testator should be clear in his/her will and avoid the use of legal terminology.
- Administration of Wills Trust and Estates, 4th edition 2009, by Gordon Brown and Scott Myers
- Last Will and Testament Forms
- signing a contract image by William Berry from Fotolia.com