Table of Contents:
- How to Create a Will in Ohio
- How to Create a Will in Maryland
- How to Create a Will in Missouri
- How to Create a Will in Kansas
- How to Make a Simple Will in Arizona
- How to Make a Simple Will in Michigan
- How to Make a Legal Will in Florida
- How to Make a Legal Will in Indiana
Because a person who dies isn't around to answer questions, Ohio law requires most wills to be in writing, signed on the last page, and witnessed by two adults who also sign the document. Written wills can be written out by hand or printed as long as they are appropriately signed and witnessed. An oral will is only valid if the dying person has no written will, knows he is dying and states his beneficiary choices to two competent, disinterested adults who are not among the beneficiaries. These witnesses must reduce his statement to writing and file it with the probate court. Even so, real property cannot be transferred by oral will.
Anyone of sound mind, 18 years or older, can create a will. A will is a legal document setting out who you want to inherit your probate property when you die. It's a good idea to name an executor in your will. The executor is the person who shepherds the will through the court-supervised probate process in Ohio, where estate debts are paid and taxes filed before the property is distributed. If you die without a valid will, your assets pass to your close family members under Ohio's intestate law. Generally, the surviving spouse receives the largest intestate share.
Although you aren't obligated to leave property in your will to your children or your spouse, your spouse can elect to take her intestate share of the property, no matter what the will provides. The intestate share is the share she would receive if the decedent leaves no will. The intestate share of a surviving spouse depends on whether the deceased had children, and whether those children were also the children of the surviving spouse. The spouse has a limited period of time in Ohio to make an election to take her share of the probate estate under the will or to take her intestate share.
Not all property you own in Ohio passes through the probate proceeding, and it pays to remember this as you are drafting your will. Property like insurance policy proceeds passes outside probate to the person you name as beneficiary. Often, retirement accounts also pass to a named beneficiary. Similarly, if you hold title to property with someone else and the deed provides for "right of survivorship," the share of the first owner to die passes to the other owner automatically, not through probate.
Figuring Out Who Gets What
The first step in creating a will involves identifying property you own that doesn’t pass to others by some other means, such as retirement plans that already have beneficiary designations or real estate you own with someone else with rights of survivorship. You can leave your estate as a whole, such as by stating that all your siblings inherit all your assets from you in equal measure, or you can make specific bequests, such as leaving your art collection to one particular child who shares your passion for it. If you’re married, you must leave your spouse a certain percentage of your estate; you can’t disinherit him in Maryland. He’s entitled to half your estate if you have no children and one-third if you do have kids. If you leave him less, he can elect to go against the terms of your will and take the statutory percentage instead, which might throw your estate plan into chaos if you don’t plan for it.
Wills Involve More Than Property
If you have children, another important function of a will is to decide who will raise them when you’re no longer able to do it. You can name a guardian for them -- and if you leave your children the bulk of what you own, you can name a property guardian in your will as well. A property guardian manages their inheritances for them until they reach the age of majority, which is 18 in Maryland. The law allows you to name the same individual as property guardian and as guardians of their persons, or you can name two different people. Another option is to include provisions for a testamentary trust in your will. With this option, your children’s inheritances would move into the trust until they reach an age you specify -- and you can name a trustee to manage the property for them until that time. You’ll also want to name a personal representative, or executor, who is the person you want to manage your estate through the probate process. You can name an alternate personal representative to step in and assume the responsibility if the first person is unable to act for some reason.
Your will isn’t complete until you sign and date it. Maryland law requires that at least two people watch you execute your signature; these are your witnesses, who must sign the document as well. Your witnesses must be competent, meaning that they’re adults and they have the mental capacity to understand what they’re doing for you. Maryland law includes no prohibition against one of your beneficiaries acting as a witness, but you may want to use a neutral third party to avoid complications after your death, such as if an unhappy heir wants to make a case that the witnesses unduly influenced you into writing your will in a certain way.
Self-Proving the Document
Maryland doesn’t require that you have your will notarized, but if you want to take one extra step to streamline the probate process for your loved ones, you can create an additional document that does require notarization. It’s called a “proof of execution of will” affidavit. A form for this document is available from the register of wills in each county. You don’t have to use this form if you’d rather write one of your own, but you also don’t have to include this affidavit with your will because it’s not mandatory. The affidavit states that your witnesses are sure you were of sound mind at the time you made your will and that they watched you sign it; the affidavit self-proves the will. If you attach it to your will, your witnesses won’t have to appear in court to testify to this information after your death.
A last will and testament is an important legal document for ensuring that your assets are distributed after death according to your wishes. While it can be difficult to think about death and the distribution of your property, planning ahead can save your family from hefty estate taxes and long legal battles. A properly prepared will can provide for the care and maintenance of your spouse and minor children, and even your pets. Understand Missouri's specific requirements for last will and testaments so that your will is legal and valid.
To create a will in Missouri, you must be 18 years or older and of sound mind. Some conditions, such as active military duty and marriage, allow minors to make legal wills.
Choose at least two people to be witnesses to your will. They should not be beneficiaries to your estate or immediate relatives, and the witnesses must be at least 18 years or older.
Use a basic last will and testament template to create your will. As a general rule, Missouri does not recognize video or other wills that are not presented in writing. Use a typewriter or computer to prepare the document. Choose the form that best applies to your current marital situation and the age of your dependents (if you have minor children, you need to designate guardians).
Designate the distribution of your property; make sure to include your spouse and children or grandchildren, if applicable. Designate a guardian for minor children, and set up a trust for their care. If you wish to disinherit a family member, give them a token gift (for example, $1.00) to avoid challenges to the will. Missouri law allows for charities and other organizations, such as colleges or churches, to be included as beneficiaries in your will.
Name an executor – someone who will administrate your estate after your death.
Print the document and check for any errors. If you need to make corrections, reprint the document. Do not use liquid correctives or mark out sections of the document. Handwritten wills are not acceptable legal documents in Missouri.
Include a self-proving affidavit at the bottom of your will. This will allow your will to be recognized in court without your witnesses needing to appear personally to validate it. You can find a sample affidavit in the resources section.
Sign and date the document in the presence of your two, or more, witnesses and a notary public or other public official with the authority to administer oaths. Have the witnesses sign their names and date, as well as print their contact information (if it is not already part of the document) below their signatures. The notary will affix a seal to the completed document and sign the self-proving affidavit.
Make copies of your signed will and keep the original in a safe place.
If you have made a will in the past, you will need to destroy all copies once the new will is signed.
Missouri allows for the creation of a "pet trust" to care for your animals after your death. Designate a caregiver, if you so desire, and add the pet trust as a beneficiary in your will.
The information contained in this article is not a substitute for professional legal advice. Check with a lawyer if you need more information.
Figure out what you own and what assets you should include in your will. Life insurance policies that name a beneficiary other than your estate do not require probate and should not be included in a will. If you own any real estate with your spouse or another person and title is held with rights of survivorship, your ownership interest will pass directly to the other person at your death, as well. A will disposes only of property held in your sole name with no built-in provisions for distribution.
Determine who you want to leave your property to. You can make specific bequests to several individuals, such as your car to your son and your jewelry to your daughter, or leave your entire estate to one person, such as your spouse. If you list individual bequests, make sure you also mention who is to get any part of your estate that is left over.
Decide who you want to manage your affairs and oversee probate of your will after you pass away. This is your executor and you should talk to the person you’ve chosen to make sure he is willing and able to do the job. You can also name an alternate or backup executor to be on the safe side, or in the event that your chosen executor predeceases you. Also decide who you want to raise your minor children, if you have any, and talk to that individual, as well, to make sure he is willing.
Purchase a statutory form for a will that is valid in Kansas either from the Internet or an office or legal supply store. You can also get a format to follow from your local law library or public library. Fill in all your identifying information, such as your name, address and the date you are making the will. Insert the names of your chosen executors, any guardian for your children, your beneficiaries and how you want your property distributed.
Gather witnesses for a will-signing ceremony. Kansas requires that you have at least two impartial witnesses who are not beneficiaries in your will. If you only have two witnesses and one is also a beneficiary, any bequest you make to her might be made void by her participation. Kansas requires that you sign your will at the end of the document and that your witnesses watch you do it. If you cannot sign your own name, you can ask someone else to do it for you, but it cannot be one of your witnesses.
Creating a simple will – not to be confused with a statutory will – hinges on what you want to achieve with the document. If you have a complex estate you want to apportion among many beneficiaries, your will probably isn’t going to be simple. If, on the other hand, you just want to cover a few basics, your will is likely to involve minimal fuss.
A handful of states offer statutory wills – prescribed forms where you can just fill in the blanks – but Arizona isn’t one of them. You’ll have to prepare your own will if you don’t want to hire a lawyer. A will kit can give you guidance regarding format and necessary language, but basic wills cover three major issues: who gets your property, who will care for your minor children and who will oversee probate of your estate. You can accomplish the latter by naming an executor or personal representative in the document, and you might want to check with the individual you nominate to make sure she’s willing to take on the job. If you have children, you’ll want to name a guardian to care for them after your death. Your children’s inheritances can complicate things a little. They can’t handle their own property until the age of majority so you’ll have to name a conservator to manage it for them until that time. If you don’t, the court will appoint someone. Another option is to use your will to set up a testamentary trust to hold your children’s assets until they come of age, but this is a more complex undertaking requiring specific language so you might need the help of an attorney.
Not all your property must pass through probate, so you can simplify your will by removing some things from the equation. For example, if you name your estate as beneficiary of your life insurance policy, your executor must then transfer the funds to your will’s beneficiaries. But if you name individuals as beneficiaries, the proceeds go directly to them, bypassing probate, allowing you to leave the asset out of your will. You can take real estate out of your probate estate by naming your beneficiary as a joint tenant with rights of survivorship – the property would go directly to your co-owner at your death. You can set up bank and other financial accounts with payable-on-death or transfer-on-death designations in Arizona. These provisions direct the money to a beneficiary outside of probate. Even if you write your will yourself, you might want to consult with a lawyer to correctly identify your probate and non-probate assets. Non-probate assets are property your will does not have to address.
Making it Official
When you’ve completed your will, you must make it official. This means signing it in front of two witnesses and having them sign it as well. Arizona law doesn’t prohibit your witnesses from also being beneficiaries. Your will doesn’t have to be notarized, but if you want to spare your witnesses some trouble after your death, you can self-prove it and this additional document does require notarization. It’s simply an affidavit in which your witnesses attest to the fact that they saw you sign your will and that you appeared to be of sound mind at the time. If they sign it, they don’t have to testify to this information in court after your death. Your executor can elect an informal probate process in Arizona if your will is clear, concise and none of your beneficiaries or heirs raise any objections to it.
Arizona recognizes holographic wills so you have the option of writing your document by hand. In this case, you don’t even have to have it witnessed if you don’t want to, but you should date it. It’s important that the entire document be in your handwriting, so it might be easier to just buy a will kit or first draft it on your computer after you determine the provisions you want to include.
A will is one of the most important documents a person will create in her lifetime. A well-drafted will passes property to your heirs efficiently. However, a will that does not meet the requirements of Michigan law will likely end up in probate and result in months, if not years, of dispute. To be considered valid, a will in Michigan must contain certain essential terms. Through careful preparation and drafting, you can ensure that your possessions will pass smoothly after you are gone.
The Basic Prerequisites
Before you can create a valid will in Michigan, you must meet two fundamental prerequisites. The first is simply reaching age of majority. The testator (person leaving the will) must be at least 18 years of age to draft a will. The second is displaying "soundness of mind." This is not a high threshold, and does not equate to competence. It simply means the testator is aware of making a will, and deliberately arranging for the disposition of assets and care of any surviving spouse or children.
The Need for Witnesses
Ordinarily, you'll need to sign the will in front of two witnesses. A signature can be any mark that the testator intends to be his signature. If he is unable to make a mark, he may direct another person to do so. The testator must tell the witnesses that the signature appearing on the will is his own and the witnesses must then sign the will in the testator’s presence. Although it is recommended that the witnesses be disinterested parties, it is not necessary under Michigan law and won't invalidate your will. Alternatively, draft a holographic will. A holographic will is one written in the testator’s own hand. Holographic wills do not have to be witnessed as long as they are signed by the testator. Holographic wills are often challenged in court, so they are not usually the best option.
The Will's Contents
Clearly identify the property to be devised. Describe personal property clearly in the will; attaching photos or a video of the personal property is recommended. For real property, provide a legal description of the property or a street address. You may also choose to name a "personal representative," or executor, to oversee the handling of your estate. If a personal representative is not appointed, the court will name one. In addition to the disposition of personal property, your will can contain appointments of guardians for your children and directives about life support.
After It's Written
Your circumstances will change over time, and your will might need to be amended in order to reflect this. An amendment to a will is called a codicil. Codicils can be attached to a will any time after the original is drafted. Initial any changes to the original will when attaching a codicil, and have two witnesses sign the codicil in the presence of the testator. Finally, keep the will in a safe place. Commonly, wills are stored in safe deposit boxes or attorney’s offices. Make sure that someone knows you have a will and where to find it after you pass.
If the property to be distributed is significant, or you expect family squabbling over the will, hire an attorney with expertise to draft your will.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or counsel.
Basic Will Requirements
Although some states recognize oral or handwritten wills, Florida isn’t one of them. Your will must be printed to be legal. You must be at least 18 years old to write a will unless you become emancipated sooner. You must be of “sound mind.” This means you understand you’re writing a will and relationship with the people to whom you’re giving your property. You know what property you own to give away.
If you have a complicated estate, talk with an attorney before attempting to write a will yourself. You probably won’t invalidate it if you make mistakes regarding its provisions, but errors could throw a monkey wrench into your estate plan. For example, Florida does not allow you to disinherit your spouse -- he’s entitled to 30 percent of your elective estate, which is certain property established by state law. If you don’t bequeath him at least this much, he can petition the court to claim it anyway. The court will give it to him and this might result in your other beneficiaries receiving less than you intended. As for the language and terminology of your will, Florida doesn’t require any particular wording. Don’t forget to name a guardian for your children, if you have any, and a conservator to manage any property you leave them until they reach the age of majority. You should also select a personal representative to handle the probate process.
Witnesses and Signatures
When your will is completed, you must follow certain rules when you sign it or it won’t be valid. Florida law specifies that you must sign at the very end of the document, although if you’re physically incapable of signing, you can ask someone else to do it for you. The person should make a note that he did so at your request. You’ll also need two witnesses to watch you sign, then they must also sign in your presence and in the presence of each other. Your witnesses must be “competent,” meaning they’re of legal age and sufficient mental capacity to testify in court, if necessary, after your death. Florida law doesn’t include any specific rule that your witnesses cannot also be beneficiaries, but using beneficiaries as witnesses can sometimes give rise to a will contest so you might want to ask someone else. Your will doesn’t have to be notarized.
You don’t have to include a self-proving affidavit to make your will legal in Florida, but doing so can make things easier for your personal representative and your loved ones after your death. The affidavit states that you signed your will in the presence of your witnesses. You and your witnesses must all sign it and the document must be notarized. Florida has a statutory form for a self-proving affidavit that you can find on the state’s website. If you neglect to include an affidavit at the same time you sign your will, you can do it later. If you include a self-proving affidavit, your witnesses won’t have to testify that they watched you sign your will.
Meet the Basic Requirements
Indiana law requires that you be of sound mind to make a will and you must be at least 18 years old unless you’re in the U.S. military or the merchant marine of the United States or one of its allies. Your will must usually be in writing; Indiana’s statutes don’t address holographic, or handwritten, wills one way or the other. If you want to be sure that the court honors your wishes, play it safe and print your will. You can also purchase and use a will form specific to Indiana law.
Line Up Your Witnesses
Like most states, Indiana requires that at least two people watch you sign your will and that they sign it themselves after you’ve done so. All of you must sign in the presence of one another. Your witnesses must be competent, meaning they understand what they’re doing, what you’re doing and that they can testify to it in court if need be. They can’t be beneficiaries who stand to inherit under the terms of your will. If they are, your bequests to them become void and they can only inherit what they would have received if you had died without a will. However, your executor can serve as a witness, as can any guardian you name to care for your children after your death. You can have your will notarized if you wish, but Indiana law doesn’t require it.
Consider a Self-Proving Affidavit
Many states recognize a self-proving affidavit, which is a document you attach to your will that is signed by you and your witnesses and also notarized. This type of affidavit is a sworn oath that your witnesses did indeed watch you sign your will and that they also signed it themselves. A self-proving affidavit avoids the necessity of your witnesses having to appear in court after your death to testify to this information. In Indiana, a simple self-proving clause at the end of your will suffices, so you don’t have to draw up a separate document. Indiana statutes provide specific wording that you can include in your will, but the will is still legal if you don’t include this language. However, doing so can save your witnesses some trouble after your death. Indiana law also allows you to videotape your will signing. You can’t commit your will itself to a video, but you can use a recording to memorialize the signing so that it’s apparent that you were of sound mind and that you did everything correctly. If you’re worried about a will contest, you can also use the video to state why you wrote your will the way that you did.
You Can Make a Deathbed Will
If you arrive at a circumstance in your life whereby you never got around to making a will but you know your death is imminent, Indiana law recognizes nuncupative wills. These oral wills, sometimes called deathbed wills, are only valid if you do indeed die as a result of the circumstances that made you want to speak your wishes to witnesses. You’ll need two disinterested witnesses that aren't beneficiaries of any property that passes under the will. They have 30 days to write down what you said and six months after your death to submit the document to the court for probate. Unless you’re in the military, you can only bequeath $1,000 in property this way. However, if you’re in the armed forces and you’re on active duty in wartime, you can leave up to $10,000 in property.