How to Make a Will for Free
Creating a Will: An Overview
Creating a will is one of the essential things you can do for your loved ones. A will ensures that your final intentions are carried out and helps prevent disagreements among your successors.
If you do not have a will, the state will decide how your property is distributed, which may not be what you would have wanted. Having a will can lessen the time, expense, and dispute associated with distributing your assets in probate court.
There are multiple ways you can create a will. This can be through a do-it-yourself will, using an online template, or hiring a professional might be necessary if the estate is more complicated.
Steps in Creating a Will for Free
It is important to think about writing a will as early as possible. Below are some steps that can help you start creating a will:
Identify a Free Will Template
Many websites offer free will templates. Once you have found a template, read the entire document and understand all the language before filling it in.
You can change these forms to reflect your needs, but be careful not to change any legal wording.
After you have read the form and understood it, you can start filling in your own information.
Choose an Executor
The executor is responsible for following through with your wishes after you die. This person should be someone you trust implicitly, as they will have a lot of responsibility.
You should confirm with this individual beforehand that they are willing to accept the role. Inform them where to locate relevant paperwork, such as your will and insurance policies.
Record All Properties (Including Debt)
You will need to list all your current possessions and debts, as these will be distributed according to your will. Debts will be carried on to the beneficiaries if the assets cannot cover them.
This list should enumerate real properties like houses and land. Personal properties, including bank accounts, stocks, jewelry, cars, and other valuables you own, should also be included.
Choose Your Beneficiaries
Anyone can be named a beneficiary, including family members, friends, or charities. They are the people who will acquire your assets after you die.
Designate Guardians for Minor Children
A guardian should be appointed to be in charge of any minor children you have. This person will be responsible for taking care of your children until they reach the age of majority.
Due to this role’s responsibilities, it is essential to confirm that your selected guardian is willing to care for your children.
Update Your Will Regularly
You will need to update your will regularly, as your assets and the beneficiary list will likely change over time. If you do not update your will and something happens to you, the outdated will could be used, which may not reflect your current wishes.
It is advisable to review your will regularly and make modifications as needed. You should also revise your will if you marry, divorce, or have children.
Abide by All Legal Requirements
Each state has unique standards for validating a will. These requirements may include acceptable formatting, minimum asset distribution, and rules on witnesses.
If you do not follow the proper procedures, your will could be declared invalid, and your assets would be distributed according to state law.
Validate Your Will
A will is only valid if it satisfies all the legal requirements and is signed by you and your witnesses. You must demonstrate your mental competence when executing it.
Additionally, no other party should be compelling you to make decisions.
Store Will in a Secure Place
After creating a will, store it in a safe place. You should tell your executor and chosen beneficiaries where to find the will. It is also recommended to keep a copy of the will in a secure location, such as a safety deposit box.
Creating a Will: DIY or Hire a Lawyer?
Generally, most individuals with simple estates may draft their own wills without the assistance of an attorney if they have a small estate and no complex financial structure such as trusts.
DIY wills are for individuals with uncomplicated family dynamics and if they understand their state’s laws regarding will drafting and are comfortable following them.
However, there are circumstances in which you may benefit from having an estate attorney draft your will. This can happen in situations such as a blended family or wanting to disinherit a family member.
Hiring a professional might be beneficial if they have multiple and complex estates.
Additionally, if there is a possibility of the will being contested in probate court, it also pays to hire one.
Do-it-yourself templates for drafting and filing a legal will typically cost around $150, while hiring a lawyer costs around $300-$1000. Fees largely depend on the complexity of an individual’s situation.
Creating a will is important for ensuring that your wishes are followed after you die. Without a will, the state will make decisions about how your property is distributed. Having a will can make the process of distributing your assets easier and less contentious.
Writing a will involves identifying an executor and your beneficiaries. Include all your properties and update your will regularly. Make sure you abide by all legal requirements and store your will securely.
About the Author
True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®
True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.
True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.