You can write your last will yourself with one of our free Word templates in this post. We’ll cover what you want to include and how to do it and also what the procedure is. A last will and testament is an important thing to take care of for your family and loved ones.
Can I just write a last will myself?
Yes, you can write a last will yourself. Especially if your will is not that complicated, then you shouldn’t have that much trouble doing so. Further down the page you’ll find several free last will and testament templates that you can use as a starting point to write your last will.
You should definitely think about at least writing a will to start with – even if you decide to do it together with an attorney at a later point in time. In that way you have a good idea of you want to include and what is important to you.
What should I include in my last will and testament?
A last will and testament is the place where a testator (also known as grantor) describes his final wishes to be executed after he/she comes to decease. It’s used to finalize life’s actions and describe what happens to everything that the deceased leaves behind.
A person doesn’t only leave physical possessions, but also people and immaterial things like dreams, hopes and wishes. Therefore you’ll find the following things (mostly) in a will:
- who gets what of your possessions
- who takes custody of your child(ren) and/or pets
people sometimes forget to take care of their pets in their last will, but they’re very important!
- who doesn’t get anything
- what kind of arrangements you’d like, such as funeral arrangements, notifications, donations to charity etc
Can I exclude people from my will?
Your will is entirely up to you in most jurisdictions. Of course there are certain things that you can’t include, because they can’t be executed, but excluding people is one of things that you CAN include.
If you wish to exclude people from your will it can be necessary to explicitly mention that you want them to NOT get any piece of your estate. This can be necessary according to some state (or country) laws. This is also useful in case your estate is fluid and it’s difficult to describe it accurately and completely. By mentioning that a certain person will not get anything at all it removes all doubt and dispute later on.
Another way of looking at this question is from a moral standpoint. Can you really exclude your children from your last will and testament? Isn’t that harsh or ridiculous? That’s a question that any person has to answer for him/herself. This is not the place to do so.
Can I still amend my will or is it final?
Once your will has been made official by a notary it is valid. That means that this is the way the will be executed unless it has been amended.
You can not just write stuff on your copy of the will to indicate changes though. A will is made official by a notary in the presence of witnesses. Therefore you can’t just make changes to it by writing something on it in your own home. That’s simply not how it works.
If you want to make changes to a will you either have to redo the entire will and then go to the notary again with witnesses, OR you add a codicil to it. A codicil is like an addendum and again – this has to be properly witnessed and notarized.
If you just follow the official process properly – you CAN amend your will.
What happens if I don’t have a will?
If you don’t have a will and you come to pass, then this is called ‘to die intestate‘. This is not an uncommon thing as most people don’t start thinking about a will until they’re either old and/or sick or until their estate becomes sizeable.
If a person dies without an official last will, then the local laws determine what happens to the estate of the deceased. This means that the estate is divided up according to certain standard percentages for the spouse / children / grandchildren etc. In some countries even other related family members can claim a piece of the estate.
Do I need a notary to make a will official?
Yes, in most cases you will need a notary to make your will official. See this short brief on the AARP site.
However the above is only valid for the US and it doesn’t mean that this statement is valid for the jurisdiction that YOU live in. It will be in most jurisdictions though.
There are several reasons why you need a notary to make your will official. Notaries play the role of verifying the following:
- the identity of the persons signing;
Otherwise anyone could easily forge a will and takeover the deceased’s estate!
- their authority to sign;
Is the testator authorized to sign? Children under 18 for example will not be able to draft a will.
- their legal capacity;
Is the testator of sound mind or are there other reasons why he/she can’t sign the will?
- their understanding of the document.
A will can be quite complex and contain many different clauses. Especially if the testator has a large estate, then there are many things to take care of.