Because estate planning is often unwelcome to think about, many people choose not to do it. However, if you have assets that you would like to leave to your children, spouse, or other family members, the lack of a will can make things complicated–and sometimes even lead to expensive court battles.
Creating a will doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. You can do it yourself, without hiring a lawyer. The process is actually quite simple, as long as you understand the basics of estate planning and follow some key steps.
Here’s how to make a will without a lawyer.
Table of Contents
- Estate Planning Basics
- 1. Find An Online Template Or Service
- 2. Gather Information about Your Assets
- 3. Make a List of Your Beneficiaries
- 4. Be Specific About Who Gets What
- 5. Choose A Guardian If You Have Minor Children
- 6. Name A ‘Residuary Beneficiary’
- 7. Choose an Executor
- 8. Draft Your Will
- 9. Sign And Date The Will In Front Of Witnesses
- 10. Store the Original Will
- Final Thought
Estate Planning Basics
When you die, your assets, including your savings, investments, real estate, and personal belongings–will be distributed according to state law if you don’t have a valid will. This process is called intestate succession, and it can often lead to family members receiving less than you intended, or even nothing at all.
To avoid this, you’ll need to create a document that lays out how you want your assets to be distributed after your death. This document is typically called a will, but it can also be referred to as a last will and testament.
In your will, you’ll need to designate an executor, who will be responsible for carrying out your wishes. You’ll also need to name beneficiaries, who will receive your assets. And finally, you’ll need to sign the document in front of witnesses.
Once you’ve created a will, it’s important to keep it up to date. That means making changes as your life circumstances change, such as getting married, having children, or buying a new home.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating your own will without a lawyer:
1. Find An Online Template Or Service
You can find a variety of online templates and services that will help you create a custom will. Be sure to do your research to find a reputable source.
2. Gather Information about Your Assets
This includes everything you own, including savings and investment accounts, real estate, vehicles, jewelry, and art.
3. Make a List of Your Beneficiaries
These are the people or organizations that you want to receive your assets after you die.
4. Be Specific About Who Gets What
When you’re assigning your assets, it’s important to be as specific as possible. For example, rather than simply leaving your home to your spouse, you might say, “I leave my home at 123 Main Street to my spouse, John Smith.”
5. Choose A Guardian If You Have Minor Children
In your will, you must name a guardian if you have minor children. If something happens to you, this is who will look after your kids.
6. Name A ‘Residuary Beneficiary’
A residuary beneficiary is someone who will receive your remaining assets (after specific bequests have been made). This is a good option if you have many beneficiaries and want to avoid the hassle of assigning each one a specific asset.
7. Choose an Executor
This is the person who will be responsible for ensuring that your wishes are carried out after you die.
8. Draft Your Will
You can use an online template or create your own document. Just be sure to include the required information, such as your name, address, and date of birth; the names of your beneficiaries and executor; and a statement that you’re of sound mind and body and understand the contents of the will.
9. Sign And Date The Will In Front Of Witnesses
In most states, you’ll need two witnesses to sign the will. Then make copies of the will and give them to your executor, beneficiaries, and trusted family members or friends.
10. Store the Original Will
Store the original will in a safe place, such as a fireproof safe, safety deposit box, or with your attorney or financial advisor.
Making a will doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. By following these steps, hope you can create your own will without hiring a lawyer.