How to Format a Last Will & Testament

By Melissa Cole
last will, testament, the aid, a lawyer

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A last will and testament is a legal document that stipulates how your property will be transferred after your death. An executor, or the person who will manage the transfer, is also named in the last will and testament. While many typically use a lawyer to draft a will, anyone over 18 can do one himself.

Begin the document with a heading that clearly states “Last Will and Testament.” Declare your full name and address, legal age and brief statement that you were not under duress or undue influence. Reiterate that this is your last will and testament, and that all previous wills and codicils are null. Add as many identifying details as possible, such as maiden name, identification number or any other information that reduces questions of your identity.

Name an executor. This may be a spouse or the primary beneficiary of the estate. Alternatively, choose a trusted and competent friend, but be sure to discuss whether he would be willing to take on the role before you draft your will.

Choose a legal guardian for your children, if you have minor children. Discuss this with the person you choose before you draft your will to make sure he is willing to step in.

Detail the beneficiaries of your estate. Clearly state their names, as well as their relationship to you.

Clearly detail all assets and their market value. Detail how assets (real estate, vehicles, investments, collectibles) will be divided among beneficiaries. Create a separate section for foreign assets, as they may be subject to foreign inheritance taxes and/or regulations.

Create a section with the heading “Bequests.” List other people or entities here who will receive property or cash.

Express how you would like your remains to be disposed. Sign your will on every page in front of at least two witnesses, who cannot be beneficiaries of the will. Be sure that the witnesses detail their addresses and confirm that they are of legal age, sound mind and were not under duress or undue influence upon signing. Have your will notarized, optionally.

About the Author

Melissa Cole began writing as a local newspaper reporter in 2008. Her work also appears on various websites. Cole is a public-television producer and media professional, as well as a vegan and former varsity track-and-field MVP and team captain. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and politics from New York University.

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