The legality of a will is often open to challenge whether it is handwritten, typed, fitted into a pre-written form or videotaped. So the best way to write a will at home is to type it up, print it and sign it. However, a holographic, or handwritten, will is a perfectly legal document that requires little legal knowledge and effort. Keep in mind, however, a handwritten will is easily challenged in court.
The Document Title and Opening Declaration
Title your will "The Last Will and Testament of [Your Name]..." or something as simple as "My Will." If there are any wills drafted or executed before this one, there should be an opening statement that says, basically, "This document, dated [this day and year], revokes all wills and codicils that were made and signed prior to this date."
Write your full name, address with city, state and county/province. Write you are of sound mind and body and are not writing the will under strain, stress or duress and that no one has written it for you or forced your hand to sign it.
Consider executing a living will in the event you are physically or mentally incapacitated and unable to carry out your daily duties.
Consider videotaping yourself reading your will. This way people can see it is actually you and know for almost certain your state of mind and abilities at the time the will was drafted and executed. You will still need a handwritten or typed document with your signature to back up the video.
Naming of the Executor or Administrator
Decide who will be the executor or administrator of the will and of your estate, and decide who will replace them at least two levels down, just in case the main executor cannot, for whatever reason, carry out your requests at the time of your death.
Name an executor who can be trusted to carry out your wishes, usually a spouse or an adult child, sometimes even parents or grandparents or a very close friend of the family. Executors or administrators do not have to be beneficiaries, they can just be uninvolved overseers who are entrusted with the duty of making sure everything is done the way you expect it to be done. If a state has to name an executor, additional fees may have to be paid out of any proceeds.
Make certain the person you are naming is aware of your decision and agrees to do it, and also be certain their replacements are aware they are the administrators of your will in case something happens to the first choice.
Naming a Guardian
Be sure to make provisions for any of your children under the age of 18 and disabled and/or handicapped children or any others that you care for. The first step is to make certain the guardian, as the executor, is aware of the responsibilities you would like to give them.
Consider the guardian's stability, place of residence, financial ability, and religious beliefs, as well as their moral and ethical beliefs when entrusting a loved one to their care.
Make sure you have named at least two replacements in the event the named guardian is unwilling or unable to serve.
Assets and Distribution
Sort out your valuables such as jewelry, antiques, heirlooms, inheritances, vintage books, pianos and other instruments. Make a comprehensive list.
Keep in mind most states are very particular about the handling of real property, such as land and homes, and insurance policies, which must have a named beneficiary separate and apart from the will itself, even if those beneficiaries are the same as noted in the will.
Decide who gets what and in what proportions or amounts. Include specific instructions to that effect in your will.
Disposal of Remains
Check with state and local authorities on what is and is not allowed by law with regard to disposition of human remains.
Indicate in the will what you would like to have done to your body when you die.
Check your insurance policy or policies and make certain there is enough coverage to take care of everything that should be done so your family is not under any financial strain while making plans for your disposition and/or to carry out your last wishes.
Sign the will. The will is not worth the paper it is written on if you do not sign it. While not as important, it is imperative nevertheless to make certain the will is dated at the beginning or end of the document.
Get at least two witnesses to undersign the will. In most states, it is required that you have at least two witnesses to sign the will underneath your signature, one of whom may be a duly-sworn notary official of the state in which you live. These two witnesses attest that you have signed the will and that you were not under any duress or force at the time it was executed.
Get the will notarized if your two witnesses are not notaries.
- Consult with a lawyer or legal counsel in your state, always; even if you are writing your own will. You may write stipulations into the will that are illegal and can and most likely will be revoked by a court of law.
- Remember that a deed of trust or a warranty deed on real property is a legal and binding document that can and will override a will if the deed itself is not re-executed to reflect your current wishes. Real property is under the jurisdiction of the state where it is located, which may or may not be the state in which you are living at the time of death.
- Use blue ink when you sign a will or any other legal document. That makes it easier to tell the original of a document from any copies that are made.
- Any will is better than no will at all. If you die intestate, or without a will, everything you own becomes state property and it will be handled accordingly.
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