Editor’s note: Perfection is sometimes the enemy of complete.
This is definitely the case with personal finance, life insurance, and estate planning. The statistics show that many people do not have a proper Last Will and Testament.
Since I’d rather see more of you have something (vs nothing), I’m going to present the steps to making a Last Will and Testament using forms you can download for free.
Note that I’m not a lawyer and nothing here should be considered real, legal advice.
One of the most important documents you will ever complete in your life is your Last Will and Testament.
Your Will is your last opportunity to express your wishes when it comes to your property, your money and your children, if they are minors. There are many other reasons you need a will.
While there are many professionals out there that are willing to help you complete your Will, they are often expensive.
The good news is that you can write your own Will for a fraction of the cost by using free Will forms.
There are dozens of generic, free Will forms out there that will give you the backbone you need to structure your will appropriately.
While using a free Will form isn’t required, it does make writing your will significantly easier than trying to draw one up from scratch.
If you are married, find the form that accommodates both of your wishes and has paragraphs dedicated to the care of minor children, if you have them.
Download or Create a Free Last Will
Once you have your free will form downloaded and ready, follow these 7 steps:
1. Include personal identifying information.
You need to make sure that there is no question that the Will you are creating is yours. On most free Will forms you will have the opportunity to fill in your name and your address, but you should also include your social security number and/or driver’s license number. The addition of these key pieces of information makes it clear that the Will belongs to you. If your form does not have the appropriate space designated for this information, write it in alongside your name and address.
2. Include a statement about your age and mental status.
Again, your free Will template will have already included this information in the standard verbiage, so you will only need to validate that this information is there. It is usually located in the first paragraph after your name. If your template does not include a statement that indicates you are of the age of majority and are of sound mind and body, either write it in or download a new form.
3. Designate an executor.
Your executor is the person who you trust to read your Will and ensure that your final wishes are carried out. In a free Will form, this should be located somewhere in the standard verbiage and should include a space for you to write in the name of your executor.
4. Decide who will take care of your children.
If you have minor children at home it is important to designate who will take care of them after you are gone. Locate the paragraph of the form that deals with the care of minor children and fill in the name of the person(s) you are designating to care for your children after you have passed on. It is also important to make sure that your designee and you have spoken about your wishes and are in agreement well before you name them in your Will.
5. Choose your beneficiaries.
In your free Will form, you will have the opportunity to list specific property and who will get these items when you pass on. It is important that if you have specific wishes for certain personal items that you list them here because if you don’t, those items may go to the wrong people. A lot of family strife can be avoided by making sure that you document what items you wish to go to which people in your Will. If you run out of space on your free Will form, add a secondary sheet of paper.
6. List your funeral details.
This is another very important aspect of your Will as it will help your family members deal with your final arrangements. You should visit a funeral home and create a list of everything that has to be decided when you pass away so that each of these things can be addressed in your Will. This will make sure that your final wishes are honored and that the burden is removed from your grieving family members. This is also the opportunity for you to list end of life requests such as whether or not you would want to be kept alive by artificial means, etc.
7. Sign and date your Last Will and Testament.
This should be done with two witnesses present as they will need to sign the Will as well. You won’t have to get a notary to sign it unless you wish to have this person as a witness. Having a notary sign the will can be a huge help in the event you believe that there will be some conflict with regard to your final wishes. Keep in mind that your witnesses cannot be named as beneficiaries in the Will, so choose your witnesses carefully.
Creating your own Will using a free Will form is a relatively simple process, but for those who wish to have a bit more direction, you can utilize a free Will kit such as the one offered by Suze Ormon or an online legal service such as LegalZoom.com. Using a legal service will be more expensive than doing it yourself, yet can provide some additional comfort that your Last Will and Testament has been prepared correctly.