The "last will" documents available in office supply stores are printed form wills. These forms provide outlines that you fill in with personal information. No state prohibits the use of form wills, but each has its own specific requirements for how a will must be signed and witnessed. You have to be certain that the form you buy complies with your state's requirements. You may want to get legal advice if you are not knowledgeable about the applicable laws. Alternatively, you can obtain a form will from your state's bar association or court website.
Wills Must Identify the Maker and Beneficiaries
Generally, a will is a document that expresses your intent to leave your assets to particular beneficiaries when you die. No specific language is required to make a will valid other than that necessary to identify you and the people you want to inherit your property. Form wills provide blanks for you to fill in with this information, and that is perfectly acceptable in most states.
Rules for Executing Wills Vary Among States
A will doesn't come into effect until after you are gone, and state laws assist the probate court to verify that you were mentally capable of making a will and intended to make that will. This is accomplished by requiring your signature and witnesses' signatures on the will. To that end, you must sign the printed will and competent adults must witnesses your signature and then sign the will themselves. This is called executing the will. State requirements about will execution vary. Some states require two witnesses; some require three. A form will is likely valid in your state if it contains sufficient signature spaces to meet your state's execution requirements.
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.