Table of Contents:
- How to Write a Will in Georgia
- How to Write a Will in Louisiana
- How to Write a Will in Illinois
- How to Write a Will in Texas
- How to Write a Will in Arkansas
- How to Write a Will in Tennessee
- How to Write a Will in Wyoming
- How to Write a Will in Ohio
- How to Write a Will in Missouri
- How to Write a Will in Florida
- How to Write a Will for Pennsylvania
- How to Write a Will in Idaho
- How to Write Your Own Will in Colorado
- How to Write a Will in Kentucky
- How to Write a Will in Maryland
- How to Write a Will in Massachusetts
- How to Write a Will in California
- How to Write a Will in Virginia
- How to Write a Will in Utah
A will is a legal document in which you specify who inherits your property and assets when you die. In Georgia, you must be 14 years old to make a will and you must have "testamentary intent." This means that you want the document to dispose of your property when you die. Georgia law also requires that you sign the will and that two competent adults witness your signature. You can change your will at any time or revoke it simply by tearing it up and writing another or by drafting a codicil, a written attachment that conforms to the same requirements as the original. If you marry, divorce, have a child or adopt one, you should rewrite your will; if you don't, certain provisions of your will may be altered as a matter of Georgia law.
While you must be sure to draft your will according to Georgia law, you are free to leave your property to anyone you like. The state does not restrict your beneficiary choices. You can direct that your property pass to persons unrelated to you, or even strangers. However, regardless of the terms of your will, if you have a spouse or minor children at the time you die, they are entitled to sufficient property from your estate to support them for one year.
Property Distributed Under a Will
Not all your property will necessarily be distributed under the terms of your will, a fact you should keep in mind when drafting the document. If you have named any beneficiaries on payable-on-death savings, checking or investment accounts, these supersede will provisions. Likewise, life insurance usually passes under a beneficiary designation, as do pension and retirement accounts. Any property you own with another person as joint tenants with the right of survivorship passes to the other person automatically when you die, so would not be governed by your will.
No Will or Invalid Will
If you don't make a will, or if your will is not valid, Georgia's intestate succession laws determine who receives your property. If you leave a spouse and children, they share the estate equally, except that your spouse will receive at least one-third of the total amount. If one of your children predeceases you, that child's share will be divided evenly among her children. If you do not have a spouse or children when you die, your estate goes to your parents, or, if they are already dead, to your siblings in equal shares.
Declare your intent that the document is your will and that you are at least 16 years old. Write: "I, [Your name and address], hereby declare this document to be my will." You can include your age here, too, but Louisiana requires you to date the will so your age can be determined from the date and the year you were born.
Describe how you want your property to be distributed. If necessary, appoint a guardian for your minor children. Olographic wills must be written in your own handwriting; notarial wills can be handwritten or typed. No specific words or phrases are needed in your will, but use clear and concise language to spell out exactly what you want.
Sign and date the will it is olographic. Olographic wills must be signed and dated by your own hand. No other requirements are needed for an olographic will. There is one more thing to do for a notarial will.
Bring the completed will to a Louisiana notary public. Also bring two witnesses. Sign and date the will in the presence of the witnesses and the notary public. Have each witness sign and date the will. Notarize the document.
Illinois residents can choose how they want their belongings divided by creating a will in accordance with state guidelines. Drafting a will means your belongings will be disposed of how you wish after death. Individuals who do not have a will, or whose will is found to be invalid, may see their belongings evenly divided between their spouse and their children, even if that was not their original intent. Writing a will is not especially complicated. However, you must follow Illinois' specific requirements before the court will honor it.
Write an Introduction
Type an introduction that states that you are at least 18 years of age and that you are of sound mind and memory. These statutory requirements are designed to show that you have the necessary capacity to write a will. Illinois does not recognize oral wills.
Identify Your Spouse and Children
To avoid any confusion, spell out the name of your spouse and your children, if applicable. Later sections of your will may reference this information.
Appoint an Executor
Name the person that you want to serve as the executor of the estate. This individual is responsible for fulfilling the instructions of your will. By Illinois law, an executor has to be at least 18, be a resident of the United States, be of sound mind and not be a convicted felon. Name a contingent or successor executor in case the first person can't or won't act in this capacity.
Give Powers and Duties
State the powers that you want the executor to have. For example, you may give the executor the power to mortgage, sell, lease, buy or invest assets. These actions may require additional court orders to enforce. A common duty for an executor is to pay the debts you have at the time of your death using your estate's assets.
Make Specific Bequeaths
Provide details about any specific items or property that you want to give a particular person. For example, you may want to give your nephew an autographed baseball. If that's important to you, make sure it's spelled out in your will.
You do not have to leave anything to family. However, by Illinois law, your spouse is entitled to a portion of your estate. They can renounce your will and take their elective share, which is one-half of the estate if you have no children or one-third of the estate if you do. They are also entitled to the first $20,000 of your estate. They can choose this statutory amount, or select instead whatever you leave in the will.
Write Residuary Clause
Type a clause that disposes of the residue, or leftover, of your estate. For example, you may say that you wish to leave any residue of your estate to your daughter.
Name a Guardian
Name the person who you want your minor children to live with. A guardian designation in a will does not prevent custody passing to a "fit and competent" parent. Another individual can be named to handle any assets left to the minor children.
Meet Illinois Requirements for Signing the Will
Include a closing paragraph in which you reiterate that the document is your will and that you are signing it on the designated date. Illinois does not recognize holographic, unwitnessed wills and these wills may be invalid. Instead, all wills in the state must be witnessed by two uninterested parties, meaning that they do not stand to inherit or benefit from the will. Sign your name in front of the witnesses, and then watch as they sign their names. Illinois does not require that your will be notarized.
Review a sample will to get an idea for the format.
Write "Last Will of [Your Name]" at the top of the document. Beneath this title, write "I, [your name], being of sound mind and understanding the general nature and extent of my property, hereby declare this document to be my will." This statement proves that you have the "testamentary capacity" that is legally required to write a will.
Describe your family. Another facet of testamentary capacity is an understanding of who your next of kin are (immediate family). Briefly describe your family by writing the names of your spouse, children, your parents, and any brothers or sisters you may have.
Explain how you want your property distributed. You can do this specifically by writing, for example, "To [person's name], I leave my baseball card collection." You can also distribute your property equally to all of your surviving family members by writing, "My estate is to be divided among my family evenly."
Bring the document to a Texas Notary Public. Bring two witnesses (persons over the age of 14). Sign the will in the presence of the notary and the two witnesses. Have each witness sign the will and have it notarized.
Determine whether you meet the requirements to make a will. In Arkansas, a testator, the person making the will, must be at least 18 years old. She must also be "of sound mind," meaning competent to act and make decisions for herself.
Compile a list of the assets in your estate in preparation of making the will. This is especially important because some property cannot be willed. For example, any assets in trust, bank accounts titled "payable/transfer on death" and proceeds from any life insurance policy will automatically be transferred to a previously designated beneficiary, and that beneficiary cannot be changed in a will.
Select beneficiaries to inherit your estate upon your death. The benefit of a will is that you are entitled to leave your property to anyone you want, including family, friends and charitable organizations. It is important that your list of beneficiaries include full names, addresses and dates of birth. Birth dates are especially important if a beneficiary is a minor, because arrangements must be made for that bequest to be placed in trust until he reaches 18.
Choose an executor, who will serve an important role after your death. An executor is responsible for collecting all assets in the estate, submitting the will for probate, contacting the beneficiaries named in the will and distributing property upon court approval.
Write your will. Arkansas law requires that wills be in writing. Generally, this means typed. However, a "holographic," or handwritten will, is considered valid if three impartial witnesses attest to the testator's handwriting and signature.
Sign the will. Once the will is complete, you must sign at the end of the document, affirming you are the named testator and the provisions of your will were drafted voluntarily and without any duress. The will signing must occur before two witnesses who also sign the document, verifying your identity, competence and creation of the will as voluntary.
Type "The Last Will and Testament of." Insert the testator's name and the city, county, and state in which the testator resides.
Appoint, in writing, a trusted individual to be the executor of the estate. Include an alternate choice.
Decide who will be the guardian to any surviving children under the age of 18. Include at least one additional option in case the first choice is unavailable or unwilling.
Choose who will receive personal items. Tennessee passes personal effects to surviving relatives, starting with a surviving spouse, unless otherwise indicated.
Detail how debts, businesses, taxes, trusts, and real estate are to be handled.
Provide any funeral or burial wishes. Appoint a family member(s) to make these decisions and arrangements.
List a statement declaring that the witnesses attest to the validity of the will.
Choose two witnesses that will not receive anything from the will. Tennessee allows beneficiaries to act as witnesses; however, in some events the state revokes gifts bequeathed to a witness.
Sign the will in the presence of the witnesses and then ask them to sign. While not required, it is recommended the signatures are notarized thereby making the will 'self-proving' and minimizing the probate process.
Title the first page "The Last Will and Testament." Include the date and your full legal name. Also include the city or town in which you live. Alternatively, consider using a legal document preparation website to prepare your will. You can also search for a template will form online that is designed for use in Wyoming.
Satisfy age and competency requirements. In Wyoming, you must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind. Generally, if you know the value and nature of your assets and understand your will is going to transfer those assets to your beneficiaries, you are of sound mind. If you have been found incompetent in another legal proceeding, you likely are not competent to write a will.
Nominate a personal representative. This person, sometimes called an executor, will be the person who carries out the wishes you declare in your will. Choose someone you trust.
List your assets. Make a complete inventory of all of your assets, including your real estate, personal property, bank accounts and investments. Decide and list who you would like to inherit those assets. You can also make a “catch-all provision” to allocate any property that you forgot to include in your list.
Make arrangements for your children. If you have children, you may nominate a guardian to care for them when you pass. You may also nominate this person to be your children’s conservator. A conservator controls your children’s assets until they become adults. You may also nominate a person or entity, other than the guardian, to be your children’s conservator.
Sign your will. In Wyoming, you must sign your will in front of two witnesses. If you cannot physically sign your will, you may direct someone else to sign for you in the presence of your witnesses. Your witnesses should be “disinterested,” or not stand to inherit anything in your will. If one or both of your witnesses is “interested,” he may not receive the inheritance you intend.
Direct the witnesses to sign your will. Your two witnesses must sign the will in your presence.
Safeguard your will. Secure your will in a safe place and notify your personal representative of where to find the will upon your passing.
Wills Must Meet Basic Requirements
Ohio requires you to be at least 18 years old and of sound mind to write a valid will. The second requirement is sometimes misunderstood. You need only be lucid at the time you actually sign the document. It doesn’t matter if you get lost in the grocery store the next day -- as long as you were of sound mind at the time you signed your will, which means you understood what you were signing and why, what assets you own, who your family members are and to whom you are leaving your property. Ohio law also requires that you aren’t “under restraint.” This means that no one exerted undue influence on you to get you to write the terms of your will the way you did.
Decide Who Gets Your Property
The next step is to decide who gets what property. The only family members you can’t disinherit under Ohio law are your spouse and minor children. If you write your spouse out of your will, she has five months after your executor is appointed to notify the court that she rejects its terms. She can take the share of your estate that she would have received if you had died without a will instead. You can disinherit an adult child, but you might want to specifically state in your will that this is your intention so there’s no confusion. Otherwise, you can leave specific items of property to anyone you choose or give beneficiaries percentage shares of your entire estate. Your will can only pass property that requires a probate procedure. For example, life insurance proceeds go directly to the policy’s named beneficiary. Real estate owned with another person with rights of survivorship passes directly to that person at your death. You can’t write your will to override these provisions.
Name a Guardian and an Executor
If you have minor children, you can use your will to name a guardian for them, someone to raise them after your death. Even if you’re married, you and your spouse could die in a common event so this precaution can ensure that your kids would live with the person you select, not someone the court appoints. You should also name an executor in your will -- someone to manage the probate process. If you don’t, the court will appoint someone. This person doesn’t necessarily have to be a resident of Ohio. If she’s related to you, even by marriage, she can serve if she lives elsewhere. The rules get more complicated if she’s not related to you, as they then depend on the law of the state in which she lives. You might want to consult with an attorney before you name an out-of-state executor.
Meet Witness Requirements
Ohio law requires that you sign your will in front of two witnesses who are “competent.” This means that they’re not minors and they can testify in court. They can tell the court that you were of sound mind and not under restraint at the time you signed the document. Some states recognize self-proving affidavits, which are sworn statements signed by the will maker and his witnesses, attesting that the will is valid so the witnesses don't have to testify to the court, but Ohio isn’t one of them. If you can’t personally sign your will because of some infirmity, Ohio law allows you to instruct someone else to do it, as long as he does it in your presence and in the presence of your witnesses. Your witnesses cannot be beneficiaries under your will.
Writing a will often gets pushed to the tail end of your to-do list for a couple of reasons: No one particularly wants to stare their own mortality in the eye, plus wills have an intimidating reputation as being complicated legal documents. While it’s true that your will must be valid by meeting all your state’s specific requirements before the court can accept it for probate, the rules aren’t really all that complex. If you take your finished draft to a Missouri attorney for review, you can probably rest assured that the court will honor it.
Meet Missouri’s Requirements
You must be at least 18 years old or emancipated from your parents – such as if you married or joined the military before you turned 18 – to make a will in Missouri. You must be of sound mind. The document must be written, meaning typed or printed, and witnessed by two persons. Missouri doesn’t accept handwritten wills. The state recognizes oral wills, called nuncupative wills, but only under very limited circumstances. You must literally be on your deathbed and speak your wishes aloud to two disinterested witnesses. Then, one of them must commit your wishes to writing within 30 days of your death and submit the statement to the court within six months. Even if you meet all these requirements, you can’t bequeath property worth more than $500 this way.
Next you must decide who receives your assets. You can name secondary, or “backup,” beneficiaries in case your first choices predecease you or decline the inheritance for some reason. If you make provisions for this, the gift can revert to your second choice. It’s usually a good idea to specify your beneficiaries by name, not just by their degree of kinship to you. You might say that you want to leave your prized and valuable stamp collection to your grandson, but if you have three grandsons by the time you pass away, this invites confusion. If you want to leave small items of personal property to certain individuals, Missouri allows you to attach a list to your will, naming them and describing each gift. It must be in your handwriting or, if you print it out, you must sign and date it. You can do this after you write your will or change it later without observing any particular formalities.
Decide Who Will Handle Your Estate
Use your will to name an executor – the person who submits the will for probate and makes sure your wishes are carried out – for your estate. Your executor will be responsible for dealing with your debts and taxes and transferring your property to your beneficiaries. If you have minor children, you can use your will to name a guardian for them. You might also consider naming someone to handle their inheritances for them until they come of age. You can name the same person to perform both roles. If you don’t express your wishes in the will, the court will appoint persons to these positions, and they may not be the ones you would have chosen.
Gather Your Witnesses
After you write your will, your next challenge is to make sure that it’s properly signed and witnessed. Missouri law requires that two people watch you sign your will and that you must make an oral statement to them saying that this is what you’re signing. Your witnesses must sign your will in your presence. If one of them is also a beneficiary in your will, you might want to add a third witness. Otherwise, as an “interested” witness, your beneficiary can only receive that which she would have received if you died without a will. This could be significantly less or even nothing at all. If you’re physically incapable of signing your will, you can direct someone to do it for you in the presence of your witnesses. Missouri doesn’t require that your will be notarized.
Meet the basic requirements. Florida law requires that you be at least 18 years old and of "sound mind." People are generally considered to be of sound mind unless a prior legal proceeding has declared them to be incompetent.
Write at the top of your piece of paper (for handwritten wills) or your word processor (for typed wills) a title such as "Last Will of [Your Name]."
Begin the will by writing a statement indicating that you intend to make a will. For example, you could start by writing "I, [Your Name], being of sound mind and understanding the nature of my property and who my heirs are, hereby declare this document to be my will."
Describe your property and explain who is to inherit it. In Florida, you can make specific devises (such as saying "To [Friend or Family Member's Name], I give my collection of baseball cards located in the top drawer of my study") or a general devise (such as saying "I give my entire estate to [Friend or Family Member's Name]"). For specific devises, describe the property (what it is and where it is located) sufficiently so that no dispute can arise.
Sign and date the will in the presence of two witnesses. Have each witness sign and date the will. The people you choose to be witnesses may be interested or non-interested, meaning that they can be people who are taking under the will or not. Keep the will in a safe place, such as in a safe deposit box at a bank.
Wills are legal documents that help you dispose of your belongings after death. Without a will, your assets are disposed of in accordance with the laws of intestacy, meaning that certain family members may wind up with resources you never intended them to have.
Write a Heading
Write at the top of the document "Last Will and Testament of" and then your name. This clearly and unambiguously identifies the document as your will.
Make a Declaration of Capacity
Declare that you are an adult and are of sound mind. This is the minimum capacity requirement under Pennsylvania state law.
Name an Executor
Include a provision that names a specific person whom you want to serve as your executor. This should be a person who you trust to carry out your wishes after death.
Make Specific Bequeaths
Provide instructions for any particular items that you want to give to someone else. For example, you may want your sister to get a certain piece of jewelry or your uncle to get your car. Beware that minor children cannot inherit, so if you want something to go to a minor, discuss the situation with a lawyer or provide the item to someone to hold in trust for the minor.
Include a Residuary Clause
Detail how you want the remainder of your estate to be distributed.
Review a sample will made under Pennsylvania law for the form and content you may wish to include in your own will.
Date and Sign
Date the document and sign it. Your signature must be at the end of the document, or information after the signature may be considered invalid under Section 2502 of the Pennsylvania Code. If you are unable to sign the document, you can sign with a mark or ask a witness to sign on your behalf. Two witnesses must observe that this act has occurred. State that the document that you are signing is your will as you sign it or have it signed.
Have Witnesses Sign
Pennsylvania is one of the few states that does not specifically require witnesses except for the reasons regarding the signature noted above. This is true whether the will is handwritten or signed. Additionally, Pennsylvania does not permit nuncupative, or oral, wills. Therefore, the only true requirements to execute a valid will in Pennsylvania that you personally sign is to make it in writing and to sign it at the end.
However, lawyers commonly have two disinterested witnesses sign the will to help verify the validity of the will and that the testator appeared to be of sound mind. They may also have witnesses complete a self-proving affidavit. This document is sworn under oath and notarized, stating that the witness verifies that he saw you sign your will. It helps witnesses avoid having to testify in court about the validity of the will.
Pennsylvania law requires that wills comply with Pennsylvania rules regarding wills or the state law where the will was made. Failure to follow these rules can invalidate your will.
Your Will Must Be in Writing
Idaho doesn’t recognize nuncupative wills -- those spoken aloud on your deathbed. Your will must be committed to writing, although it doesn’t necessarily have to be printed out or typed. The state will accept a holographic, or handwritten, will as long as the document is entirely in your handwriting.
Separate Property Lists Are Allowed
One of a will’s primary purposes is to distribute your property to named beneficiaries after your death. You can include major assets, such as real estate, in the body of the will itself, but Idaho law also allows you to transfer items of personal property by attaching a list to your will. The list must be in your handwriting -- not typed or printed out from your computer -- and you must sign it. It must describe each item of property and state who you want to receive it. Your will must mention that the list exists.
Wills Aren’t Just About Property
Another consideration is who you want to take charge of settling your estate. This involves naming an executor, called a personal representative in Idaho, in your will. If you have minor children, your will can also name a guardian for them -- someone to care for them after your death. Minors can’t legally hold property in Idaho, so you might want to also name a conservator in your will to manage their inheritances for them until they turn age 18. If you think 18 is a bit too young for them to inherit, you can state in your will that they shouldn’t take control of their property until age 21 or 25, or even later. The conservator can be the same person you name as their guardian, but if you don’t name either, the court will appoint someone. Another option involves instructing your personal representative to set up a testamentary trust. This type of trust is different from a living trust because it’s created based on the terms of your will. Your personal representative will transfer your property into the trust as part of the probate process.
You Must Meet Signing Requirements
After you complete the terms of your will, you must sign the document and have it witnessed according to Idaho law. A holographic will doesn’t require witnesses, but otherwise, you’ll need two people to watch you sign or someone else sign for you if you’re incapable of it. You can also state aloud, in the witnesses' presence, that it’s your signature on the will. They must be at least 18 years old and “generally competent” -- meaning they’re capable of testifying in court. Idaho law doesn’t prohibit your witnesses from also being beneficiaries in your will. If you don’t want your witnesses to have to testify or make statements to the probate court after your death, Idaho allows you to attach something called a self-proving affidavit to your will, and the court provides a form for this. The affidavit simply confirms that they are your witnesses and that they either saw you sign your will or you stated to them that it was your signature on the document. When the affidavit is signed by you and your witnesses and notarized, the court will accept your will for probate without your witnesses having to make formal statements.
You can make a will under Colorado law by typing it, handwriting it or using a preprinted form from a reputable online resource or office supply store. You must be at least 18 years old and mentally competent to make a valid will. If you die intestate, or without a will, a judge divides your assets pursuant to state statutes rather than according to your wishes.
Make Your Intentions Clear
Your will must clearly identify your beneficiaries and the property you are leaving them. If your directions are ambiguous, your will might not be enforceable. For example, if you state, "I want either my niece, my brother, or my aunt to take my motorcycle," your intentions aren’t clearly stated so a judge might deem the bequest invalid. If you state, "I leave my motorcycle to my brother, Robert Smith," your intentions are clear.
A Colorado will must be dated and signed by its maker whether it's handwritten, typed or preprinted. It must also be witnessed by two uninterested parties or notarized by a notary public who is authorized to take acknowledgments.
Executors and Guardians
Wills usually name an executor, or someone who is in charge of gathering your property, paying your estate's bills and distributing your assets to your heirs according to the terms of your will. Parents can also name guardians to physically care for their minor children and manage the children's money. The court will appoint an executor and guardian if you do not name specific individuals in your will to fill these roles.
Changes and Revocation
Life changes, such as marriage, divorce and having children, are common reasons to modify or revoke wills. Generally, you can fully revoke or change your will as long as you are mentally competent. You can fully revoke your will by destroying it or making a new one, or you can modify your will by drafting a codicil. A codicil is an independent document subject to the same requirements as an original will – you must sign it, and if it is typed or preprinted, it must be witnessed and dated. Revoking your old will and making an entirely new one can be more practical than writing a codicil if you want to make extensive changes.
In Kentucky, anyone 18 years or older determined to be of sound mind can write a legal will. Most of the requirements and rules for a legal will are spelled out in Chapter 394 of the revised Kentucky statutes.
Kentucky says you're of sound mind if you know that you're writing a will; understand roughly what assets you own; and know the names of family members who would normally be expected to inherit something.
Doing It Yourself
You can hire a lawyer to draft a will for you, or you can write a holographic will. A holographic will is one written in your own handwriting, dated and signed by you. Such a will is legal in Kentucky, and doesn't require witnesses. After your death, the probate court will require someone who knows your handwriting to testify that the writing is yours.
You also can type out your will or part of your will, but that option requires two witnesses, the same as a will drafted by a lawyer. Neither witness can be one of your heirs, or the spouse of an heir. If the probate court invalidates the witnesses' signatures, it'll be as if you died intestate, with no will at all.
Revising the Will
It's usually wise to review the will every year or so and decide if it needs updating. For instance, Kentucky law says if you write a will and then get married, that doesn't change your will. If you want your spouse to inherit, you need to draft a new document.
Without a Will
If you die intestate — without a will — the state will pass property to your heirs according to Kentucky law;
- Your spouse, at time of writing, gets $15,000 of your estate and half of everything above that figure.
- If you have children, the remaining assets go to your kids. If they've predeceased you, your grandchildren inherit instead.
- If you're childless, your parents inherit the second half of your estate.
The probate court will appoint the executor for your estate and a guardian, if necessary, for your dependents. The executor will divide up the value of your estate's assets and distribute them to the heirs as seems best. Your specific wishes about who should inherit which assets aren't binding without a will.
Maryland will not recognize wills that are not signed by witnesses, also known as holographic wills, unless the will was written in a state that allows such wills. The writer of the will, legally known as the testator, must be at least 18 in Maryland, competent, and writing of his own free will. A legal, valid will is required for specific wishes; otherwise state law determines how an estate is divided between heirs.
Write “The Last Will and Testament of” at the top of the page. The name of the testator and the city and state in which he or she resides must be included.
List the names of the spouse and children and make note that they will “herein be referred to as my spouse and my children.”
Name the appointed personal representative who will handle the estate. Consider listing another representative who would serve should the first choice be unable or unwilling. When it is appropriate, instruct, in writing, that the personal representative will be paid reasonable wages for performing this duty.
Detail the wishes of the burial, should there be any. When it doesn’t matter, write that the details of the burial shall be left up to the family or a specific person.
Grant permission to the personal representative to pay bills, debts and taxes from the estate. This is not necessary in Maryland, but it will speed up any probate process. Should there be a mortgage left that a beneficiary should take over, state these types of details implicitly.
Direct actions for any personal items left. Be specific in what and to whom, as well as detailing who is bequeathed the rest of the estate.
List chosen guardians for any children under the age of 18. Give said guardian the same authority as a legal parent. Any wishes for benefits to be held in a trust should be listed as well.
Write a statement, referred to as an attestation clause, that states, “The witnesses confirm this will is valid and duly executed.” While not required by law, this clause takes away any chance for anyone to tell the court later that the will is not valid in the state of Maryland.
Sign the will in front of two competent witnesses then instruct them to sign as well.
Consider consulting a lawyer for legal specifics. Wills are not required to be reviewed by lawyers in Maryland, but the Maryland Register of Wills recommends seeking legal consultation.
Title the document "[Your Name] Last Will." Beneath the title, further declare the document to be your will. Write "I, [Your Name and Address], being of sound mind and understanding the nature of my estate, declare this document to be my will."
Revoke prior wills and codicils. This ensures that the document you are writing remains your will. Write "I revoke all prior wills and codicils."
Appoint a personal representative and choose an alternate. This person is responsible for handling your affairs when you pass away. Write "I appoint [Person's name and address] as my personal representative. If [he or she] is unable or unwilling to act in this capacity, I appoint [Alternate person's name and address]."
Write out your specific bequests. List the name of a person and state what you want that person to have. After giving specific gifts, give the residue of the estate to someone (such as your spouse).
Choose two witnesses to watch you sign the will. Note that the witnesses should be "disinterested" (meaning that you did not give them any specific gifts). While interested witness signatures do not nullify the entire will, Massachusetts law voids any gifts made to them or their spouses.
Sign the will in the presence of the two witnesses. Consider having the will notarized to ensure its authenticity.
Do You Need a Will?
If you die intestate -- without a will -- state law decides how to divide up your property. If you're married and childless, for example, California law says your spouse inherits everything. If that's what you want, having a will may not be important, but there are reasons why doing so might make good sense anyway.
•You want to name an executor to manage your estate.
•You'd prefer to divide and distribute your assets differently than California law would do.
•You want to make certain bequests to specific individuals.
•You want to give an inheritance to a friend, a non-registered domestic partner or someone else who can't inherit from you if the distribution is left to state law.
Planning Your Estate
If you decide you need a will, you have decisions to make before you write it. Make a list of your possessions, from the big stuff -- your 401(k), bank accounts, the house -- to things like books, clothes, and DVDs. Decide whether you want to divide up your valuable assets in equal shares or give one heir more than the others. If you want to pas particular assets to someone, such as a personal memento or heirloom jewelry, list them.
Some assets like life insurance proceeds and retirement account assets go to their named beneficiaries regardless of the terms of your will. Keep that in mind when you're writing it -- if one child inherits a $50,000 IRA, you might want to give your other children more in the will to compensate.
California is a community property state. If you're married, assets you bought during the marriage are owned equally with your spouse. You can bequeath your half of the ownership, but not his.
The Preprinted Form
The pre-printed California will is good for simple estates, according to the State Bar of California. You can name one person to receive the bulk of your estate but also give specific assets or cash amounts to other individuals. If you have a large or complex estate, you may need a lawyer to divide everything up properly. If you later decide to rewrite your form will, crossing things out or making changes to it will invalidate it.
After you make the will, you must date it, sign it and have two witnesses sign it as well. It doesn't have to be notarized.
A Holographic Will
A holographic will has nothing to do with holograms — it's the legal term for a will in your own handwriting. In California, it must be 100 percent in your handwriting, with nothing typed. The writing must be legible. If it meets all these requirements, your holographic will doesn't require any witnesses.
It's easy to make mistakes with a holographic will, such as not spelling out your wishes clearly. If you're not sure your will says what you want it to say, it's safest to consult a lawyer.
Hiring a Lawyer
Hiring a competent lawyer reduces the risk of errors in your will. You'll still need to plan how you want your property distributed so you can tell the lawyer what you want the will to say. Just as with a preprinted will, it will require two witnesses, but not a notary.
After you write the will, place it somewhere your heirs will be sure to find it. This can be a safe-deposit box one of them has access to or your lawyer's office. Let your heirs know where to look. A will that can't be found is useless.
Review your will periodically to make sure it's up to date. Divorce, a new child or acquiring new assets can all necessitate changes.
A will is a legal document in which you set out who is to inherit your property when you die. It is enforceable in Virginia if you write it out in your own hand and sign it, or if a printed will is witnessed and signed by two competent adults. Virginia law does not require that the will be notarized.
Preparing a Will
A will is a writing that sets out who you want your property and assets to belong to when you die. No particular form is required. You can also name the person you want to be in charge of probating your will and your choice of a guardian for your minor children. If you die without a will in Virginia, the court will divide your property among your near relatives.
Wills generally serve the same purposes in every state, but the rules for making a will vary from state to state. It's critical to know the rules in your state of residence to be sure that your will is valid and will be enforced after you die according to your wishes.
Making a Holographic Will in Virginia
Virginia law provides several options for residents who want to make a valid will. This allows you to pick the type that meets your needs. In Virginia, a holographic will is enforceable. To make a valid holographic will, you must write out the entire document in your own hand. Then you must sign and date the will. Once you have done this, you have prepared a holographic will that will be enforced in Virginia.
Witnessed Wills in Virginia
You can also use a printed will in Virginia. You can create and type the will yourself, use a printed form will or hire a lawyer to prepare a will for you. Then, you have to sign the will, also known as executing the will.
Virginia requires that two competent adults watch you sign the printed will. These are called witnesses. They must also sign the will themselves in front of you. Without the two witness' signatures, your printed will is not valid. Your witnesses may be called into court when your will is probated. The judge will ask them to testify that you signed the will and that you knew what you were signing.
Wills Can, but Need Not, Be Notarized
Some states require that the signatures on your will be notarized, but Virginia is not one of them. On the other hand, the Virginia State Bar Association recommends that you consider notarizing your will.
If you and your witnesses sign your will in the presence of a notary, the will can include a notarized Self-Proving Affidavit. In Virginia, the probate court will presume that a will with a Self-Proving Affidavit has been properly executed, and the witnesses will not have to appear in court to testify.
Write "Last Will of [Your Name]" at the top of a new document in your computer's word processor or on the top of a clean piece of paper. Note that typing your will is preferable to handwriting your will only because typing tends to eliminate problems with deciphering a person's handwriting.
Write a sentence further explaining that you intend this document to be your will. Utah's probate code indicates that a will should "identify itself as a will." Writing "I, [your name] hereby declare this document to be my will. I expressly revoke any and all previous wills and codicils." Codicils are basically amendments to existing wills.
Name your personal representative. In Utah, as in other states, the personal representative (also called the "executor") is responsible for notifying your heirs when you pass away and handling your estate's affairs (such as paying creditors and filing taxes). Writing "I name [friend or family member's name] as my personal representative" suffices.
Appoint a guardian to care for your minor children (if you have any). Writing "I name [friend or family member's name] as guardian for [list children's names]" is acceptable.
Describe how you want your property distributed. Use specific names and specific items (such as "I give [Name] my autographed Carl Malone Utah Jazz jersey") or general formulas (such as "I give my entire estate to my three children to be divided among them equally).
Sign and date the will in the presence of two witnesses. The witnesses can be any willing person (friends and family members are common). Have each witness sign the will. Note that Utah's Probate Code allows you to authorize an individual to sign the will in your presence if you are unable to.