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Wills and estate planning

What you need to know about writing your own will

If you have limited assets, only one or two beneficiaries and no major tax issues, you may want to write your own will. If you are considering it, here are some tips.

Creating a will is very important - no matter what your health, wealth, or family status. It tells others how to handle financial and other legal matters after you die and names the people you want to receive your assets. And as long as your family issues, finances, and legal matters aren't too complicated, you could successfully write your will yourself.
For example, you may want to consider writing your own will if:

  • You have limited assets registered in your name.
  • You want to leave your assets to only one or two people.
  • You have no major tax issues to consider.

Writing a will - What you need to know

Writing a will doesn't have to be an elaborate, expensive process. Whether you do it online or pen it out on paper, you can create a simple will that reflects your wishes after your death and that's legally binding. Here are a few key guidelines when writing your own will:

  • Know your state's requirements

    Most states have their own rules. For example, not every state recognizes a handwritten will as valid, and some states will require that you have your will signed by one or two witnesses, or notarized. FindLaw.com is a good resource for researching your state's requirements.
  • Identify yourself

    Include key identifying information in your will. In addition to your name, be sure to include your Social Security number, address, and date of birth so there is no confusion as to whom the will belongs.
  • Make a declaration

    When writing your own will, you must declare that you are of sound mind and memory, and that the objective of your will is to express your last wishes.
  • Name an executor

    You may want to name your spouse, adult child, relative, or close friend as your executor, while others prefer to choose a lawyer or financial advisor.
  • Special bequests

    If you don't specify how your assets are to be divided and to whom, the courts will decide it for you. It could be as simple as To my daughter, Mary Jones, I devise, bequeath, and give my coin collection.
  • Funeral arrangements

    You may want to use your will to stipulate special requests such as where you want to be buried or the type of funeral you want.
  • Sign your will properly

    You need to know how your state wants you and your witnesses to sign your will before you sign it. If done incorrectly, it could affect the will's validity. It's also a good idea to initial each page of your will.

These are just a few guidelines for writing your last will and testament. For more information, visit USA.gov or NOLO Law for All.

Rules for writing your own will

According to the website USA.gov, there are six rules you need to know when writing your own will:1

  1. In most states, you must be 18 years or older.
  2. You must be of sound judgment and mental capacity. 
  3. It must state clearly that the document is your will. 
  4. You must name an executor of your will (an individual who will ensure that your estate is distributed according to your wishes).
  5. You must sign your will in the presence of at least two witnesses for it to be valid.
  6. A financial will and testament will always supersede a last will and testament when bestowing financial assets.

Writing a will can be as simple as typing out how you want your assets to be transferred to loved ones or charitable organizations after your death. Remember, if you don't have a will when you die, your estate will be handled in probate, and your property could be distributed differently than you would have wished.
 

1. https://www.usa.gov/family-legal#item-212733
Additional sources used in this article: http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/how-write-will.html, http://www.free-legal-document.com/last-will-and-testament.html

 

WEB.1310.02.15

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