We’ve figured out how to make a will for free! If you’re under the impression that creating a last will and testament is costly or complicated, please stick around. We’ve figured out a method that is both easy and affordable.
What is a will?
When you die, a will is the document that explains how you want your property distributed and your dependents cared for. If you do not have a will when you die, the state will make those decisions for you.
Usually, a will will explain who should care for your minor children (or pets), who will receive your assets and who will be in charge of carrying out the provisions in your will.
Why do I need a will?
Do you trust the state to make those decisions for you? You are usually the most qualified person to determine who should care for your children or receive your belongings. If you do not create a will, you are surrendering control over these things to the state.
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What do I need to decide before I learn how to make a will?
Before you start preparing the document, you will need to make a series of important decisions. Remember, the will represents the last decisions you will make in this life so be sure to take your time and make good choices.
Choose an executor.
The executor is responsible for executing, or following the directions of, your will. It’s a major responsibility, so you should choose your executor carefully.
An executor has many responsibilities, including:
- Notifying banks, credit card companies and government agencies of the person’s death
- Setting up accounts for incoming funds and outgoing bills
- Maintain an estate inventory with the court
- Maintain the property until it can be distributed or sold
- Pay the estate’s debts and taxes out of the estate’s funds
- Distributing assets and disposing of property
You will need to choose a responsible person that you can trust to follow your wishes. Many people choose their spouse or a capable, trusted friend. Sometimes, people elect a lawyer or neutral third-party.
Regardless of who you choose as the executor, you should let them know that you want to list them as an executor. Confirm that this is something they are willing to do before you list them in the will. You can also add an alternate executor, who will assume that role if the first executor is unable to do so after your death.
Identify your heirs.
Who will receive your possessions when you die? Normally, heirs include your spouse, life partner and any children you may have. However, you may want to name others depending on your individual circumstances.
Make sure to identify your heirs clearly, so there is no room or reason for someone to contest your will. Use full names, relationships, or other personally identifying information to make your wishes clear.
Please be aware that in most states, the spouse has a legal right to inherit your belongings. If you want to leave your spouse out, you will need to speak with a lawyer to figure out how to make a will that does not include your spouse.
Name a guardian for your dependents.
If you do not have a will that names a guardian for your dependents, the court will choose one for you. This can be a long, complicated and expensive process. It can also be very traumatizing for your children.
As you prepare to learn how to make a will, the biggest and most important decision you will make is deciding who will have guardianship over your children. This decision should be given a lot of thought and should be discussed with whomever you name in your will.
Although you are not obligated to tell the guardian you choose that you have chosen them for this role, it’s usually a good idea. If you don’t discuss it with them beforehand, it’s generally wise to name three guardians in order of preference. If your preferred guardians are currently married or in a relationship, you may want to include a written plan for who should assume guardianship in that situation. You can also include instructions about what should happen if your guardians die while your children are still in their care.
Assess and divide your property.
You are the most qualified person to assess your assets. Assets include any bank accounts, investments and possessions that you own. It may take a while to gather all of the relevant information. It helps if you already have a home inventory!
Decide who will receive what. You can divide your possessions by percentages to your heirs. You can also make specific bequests, which give specific items to specific people other than your named heirs.
Here’s how to make a will for free.
Many people think that they have to hire a lawyer to create their will, but that’s not true. There are several services that can help you learn how to make a will for free. Since lawyers basically use filled-in forms when they prepare wills, you’re really just cutting out the middleman anyway. Many of these online services offer guided tutorials that can help ensure you don’t make mistakes.
Freewill.com provides 100% free wills and other estate planning documents.
It only takes about 20 minutes to complete your last will and testament through Freewill.com. The information you provide will be wrapped up into a free, printable document that you can sign with your witnesses.
Customized wills for each state are also available at eForms.com.
This service has wills customized to the state laws of each state. Just choose the state where you currently reside and fill in the required information! Unlike Freewill.com, you can browse the eForms database without logging in. You can even browse a PDF template of the will documents they have for your state.
Meet Fabric is an insurance app with a free will prep.
You don’t have to use their insurance in order to use Meet Fabric’s free will prep service! It’s available on an app, so it’s convenient to do on your smartphone. There are no gimmicks involved. If you opt-in, they’ll send you a helpful email series that can guide you through the will creation process.
Don’t want to use an app? Here’s how to make a will by yourself.
If you don’t want to use an online service, that’s okay too. We’ll show you the steps to make a will in your favorite word processing program. Personally, I favor Google Docs.
Step One: Introduction
You will need to clearly label the document “Last Will and Testament.” Write that at the top.
For the first few sentences, identify the document again as your Last Will and Testament. State your full name and address. You must also state that you are of sound mind and not making the will under duress. Be sure to state that this will revokes any previously made will or codicil.
You may want to include your birth date, age and Social Security Number for clarity, although these things may not be legally required.
Step Two: Choose an Executor
The second paragraph of your will should name the executor of your estate. You can name a backup person in case your primary executor is unable or unwilling to serve when the time comes.
Step Three: Identify Your Heirs
The third paragraph of your will should list your heirs. Be sure to identify them specifically so there is no ambiguity in your last will and testament!
Step Four: Name a Guardian
The fourth paragraph of your will should name the guardian of your children. Be sure to name them very specifically, so the courts can clearly identify who you are referring to. It may be beneficial to have a backup person listed, in case that person is unable or unwilling to provide for your children when the time comes.
Step Five: Assess and Divide Your Property
This may take more than one paragraph. You should list your property, assigning specific things to the person you want to receive it.
Step Six: Sign in front of two witnesses! That’s how to make a will legally binding.
Print your will but don’t sign it until you are in the presence of witnesses. States require at least two witnesses to sign the will, and some states require three. The witnesses must be neutral third parties who are not named in the will. Choosing the wrong witnesses may invalidate your entire will, so choose your witnesses carefully!
Although states generally don’t require a will to be notarized, a notary can witness and verify your identity as you sign the will. This can lend credibility to your will, which will help if it is contested in court for any reason.