DIY Will Basics

Almost half of Americans don’t have a will. No one likes to think about end-of-life plans, but if you pass away without a will, it means added stress for your loved ones and potential problems with the lengthy and complicated probate process.

You may not think you have enough of an estate to bother creating a will, or you might assume that your assets will automatically go to your spouse or children. However, without a legally valid will, your loved ones may have to wait an excruciatingly long time before the court releases your assets. 

The truth is that everyone should have a will, regardless of age or income. Fortunately, the process of creating a Last Will & Testament has never been easier. A do-it-yourself will is inexpensive, uncomplicated, and can usually be handled without an attorney. 

Why You Need a Will

A will lets you decide what happens to your estate after you pass and ensures your final wishes are carried out. Your estate must still go through the process of probate, but a legally valid will helps the procedure go more smoothly and ensures that your loved ones don’t have to deal with additional stress or time-consuming complications. 

You Can Do It Yourself

You do not need an attorney to create a legally-binding Last Will & Testament. Begin planning your estate with a DIY kit or through a document services website. With either option, you can customize each section of your will to suit your own needs and situation. 

Creating a Will Online

One way to create a simple and legally-binding Last Will & Testament is by using a document preparation service online. The instructions should be easy to follow, and a good site generally provides answers to basic questions. You will mostly be filling in the blanks on the document and selecting the options that fit your needs. 

Creating your Last Will & Testament online allows you to work through the process from the comfort of your own home, on your own time. Many people also report feeling more in control when planning online.  

When creating your Last Will & Testament, you will need to decide the following:

  • Your executor

  • Your beneficiaries

  • Your chosen guardian (if you have children)

The executor is responsible for carrying out the instructions you left in your will. They must also work closely with the probate court throughout the process. As this person will have access to sensitive financial information, the executor should be someone trustworthy and responsible. 

Your beneficiaries are the named recipients of your estate. You can choose any person or organization to be one of your beneficiaries. You must also decide what portion of your estate each beneficiary should receive. Your chosen executor will be in charge of distributing your assets as stated in the will. 

Select a legal guardian for your minor-aged children. Your chosen guardian does not necessarily have control over your child’s inheritance — this is part of the instructions that you can specify in your will. However, the legal guardian must be able to care for your children until they reach adulthood.

Signatures and Witnesses

Your Last Will & Testament is not considered legally binding without your signature and that of at least two witnesses. The reason witnesses are necessary is so at least two adults of sound mind can attest that you are fully aware of your actions and the document you are signing.

You can also include a Self-Proving Affidavit to attest to the validity of all signatures in the will. This document will save time and stress during the probate process. 

Most states require that your two witnesses not be beneficiaries of your will. The legal term is “disinterested,” which means they do not benefit in any way from your will. One example of a disinterested witness is an attorney. 

A Few Considerations

If you decide to use an online service to make your will, there are a few things to remember:

  1. The document preparation business is not a law firm. A website can provide basic information, but cannot offer any legal advice.

  2. While an attorney is not necessary for a will to be legally binding, you can print your will and take it to an attorney for review before signing. 

  3. The DIY option is ideal for most situations, but if you own multiple properties or have a large estate, you may want to have an estate attorney help you with the details of your will to ensure you don’t miss anything (i.e., tax responsibilities). 

  4. It is your responsibility to make sure that your Last Will & Testament is legally valid. Regardless of where you live in the US, there are some regulations that your will must still adhere to. 

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