Last Will and Testament

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A last will and testament is a legal document outlining how you wish an executor to distribute your assets and property to your beneficiaries after your death. The last will is essential because it ensures that a probate court divides your estate and bequeaths assets to those you wish to inherit them. Easily customize and download this last will and testament to establish your needs.
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Document Types
Codicil to Will
A codicil indicates a change in the direction of the initial last will & testament.
Pour Over Will
A pour over will declares that any assets will be transferred into the trust after death.
Paper titled "Last Will and Testament"; physician and a female senior; pen, stamp, armchair, floor lamp

A final will and testament is beneficial to everyone. This form for making a will specifies how your possessions will be divided after death, ensuring your last desires are honored. Drafting a will template can be complicated, and it must abide by state law to be recognized.

You're in the perfect place if you need to understand exactly how to write a will. In addition, you may create and download our printable last will and testament PDF agreement. We also go over everything else you should know about basic last will and testament forms so that you can ensure your final desires are carried out.

What Is a Last Will and Testament?

A generic last will and testament is a legal document specifying how a person wants specific assets and property distributed after passing. The beneficiaries receive assets following a person's passing. These assets are distributed by an executor appointed in terms of the last will and testament of the deceased. The role of the executor is to:

  • Locate the original and most recent last will testament sample of the deceased;

  • Identify and gather the assets of the estate;

  • File an inventory of the estate’s assets in court according to state rules;

  • Ascertain the value of the assets;

  • Undertake a title search for any real property belonging to the deceased and determine if there are any encumbrances connected to the property;

  • Protect the assets pending distribution to beneficiaries;

  • Reach out to the beneficiaries and notify them of the intention to probate the senior last will and testament;

  • Ascertain if there are any public or private pensions payable to the estate and pursue the relevant claims procedure;

  • Inform the appropriate government agencies of the death; and

  • Distribute the assets.

Insight

Also, an executor of the will is in charge of specific financial operations, such as:

  • Notifying banks, credit unions, trust companies, or any other financial institution where the deceased held an account.
  • Determining if the deceased had an insurance policy and submitting a claim if the proceeds are payable to the estate.
  • Paying cash legacies as outlined in the will and oversee the transfer of personal effects to the appropriate individuals.
  • Paying any debts and liabilities owed by the estate.
  • Filing the appropriate tax returns for the deceased.

If any beneficiaries are minors, the sample of a will letter will be used to appoint a guardian responsible for their upbringing until they become legal adults. The guardian can make decisions for the child (such as which school the child will attend) and manage the child’s finances.

Parties of the Last Will & Testament

There are several parties involved in last will and testament samples, and it is important to understand the role of each when writing your example of a last will and testament:

  • Testator –– The person writing the format for a last will and testament and giving away their assets to the beneficiaries.
  • Beneficiaries –– The individuals or organizations named in the will who will receive one or more of the assets from the testator’s estate.
  • Executor or Personal Representative –– The person given the responsibility to carry out the wishes of the testator and distribute the assets to the beneficiaries at the point of death.
  • Trustee or Custodian –– The person who will manage assets given to a beneficiary set to receive the property at a later date (often the case with children who are beneficiaries).
  • Legal Guardian –– The person that the testator chooses to care for any dependent children left without a living parent after the testator dies.
Warning

If a person dies intestate, or without an easy last will and testament, his/her estate, including the distribution of all assets, is settled by the courts.

Key Terms

There are several other unusual terms you might come across when trying to write a downloadable last will and testament. Here is a look at the key terms to be aware of: 

  • Bequeath –– Another word for “give” that is used when leaving property to a beneficiary.
  • Bequest –– A gift of any personal property (property that isn’t real estate) at the point of death.
  • Heir –– The person who automatically receives ownership of the property after death when there is no last will and testament in place.
  • Intangible Property –– Assets that cannot be seen or distributed physically to beneficiaries: copyrights, patents, etc.
  • Personal Property –– All assets that are not real estate property.
  • Real Property –– Any real estate property, including land and houses.
  • Residuary Estate –– Any property that is not specifically distributed in the will. Often used after distributing personal items to specific beneficiaries, then leaving the “residue estate” to X.
Warning

It's recommended to consider your assets and include a provision for everything that you wish to distribute to your beneficiaries. It is also suggested to provide some “what-if” provisions for circumstances in which a named beneficiary cannot inherit as intended (e.g., the beneficiary has died).

Why Is a Last Will & Testament Important?

A last will and testament contract is essential for ensuring that a probate court will divide a person’s estate according to their wishes. The document allows people to bequeath assets to their loved ones. In the case of minors, sample will formats enable a parent to designate trusted guardians over them. 

Insight

Overall, wills online templates will save family members from stress and possible disagreements that may arise from trying to figure out how to divide a loved one’s estate.

Who Needs a Last Will & Testament?

Any person over the age of 18 who has any sort of investments, assets, real property, or dependents should have examples of a last will and testament. A properly created last will and testament is the best way to protect the people and things you care about.

What Should Be Included in a Will?

If you have a small estate, download this standard will template to create a legally enforceable document. For larger estates, consider hiring legal counsel to evaluate your last will and testament and advise you on any potential legal repercussions. You must mention each of the following in your will:

  1. Personal Information
    A statement confirming the testator's mental and legal capacity should be included in the personal information section. Ensure the statement nullifies any previous wills you may have written and was prepared free from any unfair influence.

  2. Appointment of an Executor
    All components of your last will and testament must be carried out under the direction of the executor. When leaving the assets to your beneficiaries, grant the executor the authority to make any required adjustments, such as paying off debts and for funerals. It may be beneficial to name a trustworthy professional attorney as executor rather than a beneficiary.

  3. Assets, Bequests, and Requests
    This section includes a person's obligations in addition to their property and assets. After paying any debts and final expenses, your beneficiaries will split your assets as you have directed. Some wills provide that for beneficiaries to be eligible to inherit, they must first outlive (or, in the case of a firm, continue to exist) the testator for a predetermined number of days.

    Please specify any particular instructions you may have in this section, such as how you would like the executor to handle your funeral or remains.

  4. Designated Guardians
    If you die as the only parent, you can assign legal guardians for your minor children in this section of your final will and testament. Only include this section If you have dependents, such as young children, for which you are legally responsible.

  5. Signed Witnesses
    Examine the rules and regulations of your state, and add a section for your signature as well as the signatures of two witnesses. Most states except Pennsylvania want at least two signatures from reliable witnesses. Consult the list of laws for each state further down this page before signing your last will and testament, as it will become legally binding.

**Please consider that this is a non-exhaustive list and these are the standard terms for the contract.**

How To Write a Last Will and Testament

Provide the variable information after obtaining the last will and testament form. Be careful to include the current legal names of chosen executors, guardians, or beneficiaries. To make the paperwork process easier, gather the specifics of all your properties and assets in preparation.

1. Add Personal Information

Proceed to fill in the relevant descriptive information about yourself, including:

  • Name and address;

  • Marital status; and

  • Number of children and their dates of birth.

2. Add Executor Information

The selection of an executor is covered in the next section of the last will and testament example. Identify the person you choose to handle your estate's administration and representation. Identify a secondary executor who should take over if the primary executor cannot perform their duties due to unforeseen reasons.

3. List Your Assets

When creating your final will and testament, inventory your possessions. Any valuable items should be on this list, which can range from general (such as identifying a collection of items) to very precise (such as naming each piece of jewelry or property).

4. Add Designated Guardians

Provide the legal names and addresses of at least two potential guardians who will care for your dependents. If the first individual (or couple) is unwilling or unable to serve as guardian, the second person (or couple) listed is your backup choice.

5. Outline Your Bequests and Requests

If you have one inheritor, include the name of a second person if the first inheritor passes away before you do. Make sure to assign specified assets to the appropriate person. Provide the current legal names and addresses of the recipients.

6. Signed Witnesses

After signing the last will and testament in front of two witnesses, allow them to do the same. The document must be signed in your presence, ideally on the same day you sign it. However, the time that signatures must be present varies per state. If you require legal counsel, contact a lawyer.

How To Use a Last Will and Testament

Your last will and testament has to be stored safely once it has been written. It is wise to create many copies of your will and testament forms in case the original is misplaced or damaged. Ensure you update it frequently, following any significant life events.

Once you die, your last will and testament becomes effective, and it is up to the executor to carry out your final desires as stated in the instrument.

Common Use Cases

A last will and testament is an integral part of estate planning and is crucial for anyone who wants control over their property after death. Below are some reasons people choose to have a will:

  • To gain control over who receives your assets after death;
  • To ensure estranged relatives or others don’t get their hands on your assets;
  • To identify and appoint a guardian for your children so it isn’t left to the courts;
  • To speed up the time taken for your heirs to receive their assets;
  • To give gifts and charitable donations to meaningful non-profits;
  • To save on estate taxes.

When Not To Use the Last Will and Testament

Although a will is useful for managing many assets, it is not useful for some asset classes. If you have any of the following types of property, a will won’t be useful:

  • Jointly owned property;
  • Property already assigned to a living trust;
  • Pension plan with assigned beneficiaries;
  • Stocks and shares in accounts signed to beneficiaries;
  • Money in a payable-on-death bank account.

A will and testament should also be avoided if you want to avoid the probate process. All property and assets on your will need to pass through probate court. This can be a long and costly process, and your outline of a will is made public.

State Law

For your last will and testament to be considered legally valid, it must be signed and created as per state law. If you have moved to another state, you must check that your will conforms to the laws of your new jurisdiction – otherwise, it will not be honored. Here is an overview of the key differences found in state law:

State Law
Alabama
  1. Holographic wills are NOT recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older and of sound mind are required.

State Law: Ala. Code Title 43, Chapter 8, Article 7

State Law
Alaska
  1. Holographic wills are recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older and of sound mind are required.

State Law: Alaska Stat. Title 13, Chapter 12, Article 5

State Law
Arizona
  1. Holographic wills are recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older and of sound mind are required.

State Law: Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. Title 14 § 14-2501 

State Law
Arkansas
  1. Holographic wills are recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older and of sound mind are required.

State Law: Ark. Code Title 28, Subtitle 3, Chapter 25 § 28-25-101 

State Law
California
  1. Holographic wills are recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older and of sound mind are required.

State Law: Cal. Prob. Code, Division 6, Part 1, Chapter 1 § 6100 

State Law
Colorado
  1. Holographic wills are recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older and of sound mind are required.

State Law: Colo. Code Title 15, Part 5 § 15-11-501

State Law
Connecticut
  1. Holographic wills are NOT recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older and of sound mind are required.

State Law: Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. Title 45a, Chapter 802a § 45a-250

State Law
Delaware
  1. Holographic wills are NOT recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older and of sound mind are required.

State Law: Del. Code Title 12, Chapter 2, Subchapter 1 § 201

State Law
Florida
  1. Holographic wills are NOT recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older and of sound mind are required.

State Law: Fla. Stat. Ann. Title XLII, Chapter 732 § 732.501

State Law
Georgia
  1. Holographic wills are NOT recognized;
  2. Testators of 14 years or older and of sound mind are required.

State Law: Ga. Code Ann. Title 53, Chapter 4, Article 2 § 53-4-10

State Law
Hawaii
  1. Holographic wills are NOT recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older and of sound mind are required.

State Law: Haw. Rev. Stat. Title 30 A, 560 § 560-2-501

State Law
Idaho
  1. Holographic wills are recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older and of sound mind are required.

State Law: Idaho Code Title 15, Chapter 2, Part 5 § 15-2-501

State Law
Illinois
  1. Holographic wills are NOT recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older and of sound mind are required.

State Law: Ill. Comp. Stat. Chapter 755; Probate Act of 1975 Article IV.

State Law
Indiana
  1. Holographic wills are NOT recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older and of sound mind are required;
  3. Testators may be of younger age if they're a member of the armed forces.

State Law: Ind. Code Ann. Title 29, Chapter 5 § 29-1-5-1

State Law
Iowa
  1. Holographic wills are NOT recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older and of sound mind are required.

State Law: Iowa Code, Title XV, Chapter 633 § 633.264

State Law
Kansas
  1. Holographic wills are NOT recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years possessing the rights of majority; or older and of sound mind are required.

State Law: Kan. Stat. Ann. Chapter 59, Article 6 § 59-601

State Law
Kentucky
  1. Holographic wills are recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older and of sound mind are required;
  3. Minor parents that need to appoint a guardian can be a testator of younger age.

State Law: Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. Chapter 394 § 394-020

State Law
Louisiana
  1. Holographic wills are recognized;
  2. The age of testators is not specified; however, Article 1577 of the Louisiana Civil Code stipulated certain requirements for the form of testament.

State Law: La. Civ. Code Ann. art. 1577

State Law
Maine
  1. Holographic wills are recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years and of sound mind as well as legally emancipated minors of sound mind are required.

State Law: Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. Tit. 18-C; Probate Code, Article 2, Part 5 § 2-501

State Law
Maryland
  1. Holographic wills are NOT recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older and of sound mind and legally competent to make a will are required.

State Law: Md. Stat. Ann. Title 4, Subtitle 1 § 4-101

State Law
Massachusetts
  1. Holographic wills are NOT recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older and of sound mind are required.

State Law: Mass. Gen. Laws Title II, Part II, Chapter 191b

State Law
Michigan
  1. Holographic wills are recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older are required. They should also have sufficient mental capacity, satisfying certain requirements specified in § 700.2501 of 2021 Michigan Compiled Laws. 

State Law: Mich. Comp. Laws Chapter 700, 1998 Statute Act 386, Article II § 700-2501

State Law
Minnesota
  1. Holographic wills are NOT recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older and of sound mind are required.

State Law: Minn. Stat. Ann. Chapter 524 § 524.2-501

State Law
Mississippi
  1. Holographic wills are recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older and of sound mind are required.

State Law: Miss. Code Ann. Title 91, Chapter 5 § 91-5-1

State Law
Missouri
  1. Holographic wills are NOT recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older and of sound mind are required;
  3. Any minor emancipated by adjudication, marriage, or entry into active military duty may be recognized as testators.

State Law: Mo. Rev. Stat. Title XXXI, Chapter 474 §§ 474-310

State Law
Montana
  1. Holographic wills are recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older and of sound mind are required.

State Law: Mont. Code Ann. Title 72, Chapter 3, Part 5 § 72-2-521

State Law
Nebraska
  1. Holographic wills are recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older and of sound mind are required.

State Law: Neb. Rev. Stat. Chapter 30 § 3-2326

State Law
Nevada
  1. Holographic wills are recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older and of sound mind are required.

State Law: Nev. Rev. Stat. Chapter 133 § 133.020

State Law
New Hampshire
  1. Holographic wills are NOT recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older and of sound mind are required;
  3. Married persons under 18 of sound mind may be also recognized as testators.

State Law: N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. Title LVI § 551:1

State Law
New Jersey
  1. Holographic wills are recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older and of sound mind are required.

State Law: N.J. Stat. Ann. Title 3B § 3B:3-1

State Law
New Mexico
  1. Holographic wills are NOT recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years and of sound mind as well as legally emancipated minors of sound mind are required.

State Law: N.M. Stat. Ann. Chapter 45 Article 2 § 45-2-501

State Law
New York
  1. Holographic wills are NOT recognized, except for a member of the armed forces, a person who serves an armed force during war or armed conflict, or a mariner while at sea;
  2. Testators of 18 years and of sound mind and memory are required.

State Law: NY EPT Chapter 17-B, Article 3, Part 1 § 3-1-1

State Law
North Carolina
  1. Specific requirements apply to holographic wills;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older and of sound mind are required.

State Law: N.C. Gen. Stat. Chapter 31 § 31-1

State Law
North Dakota
  1. Holographic wills are recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older and of sound mind are required.

State Law: N.D. Cent. Code Title 30.1, Chapter 30.1-08

State Law
Ohio
  1. Holographic wills are NOT recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older, of sound mind, and NOT under restraint are required.

State Law: Ohio Rev. Code Ann. Title 21, Chapter 2107 § 2107.02

State Law
Oklahoma
  1. Holographic wills are recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older and of sound mind are required.

State Law: Okla. Stat. Ann. Title 84, § 84-41

State Law
Oregon
  1. Holographic wills are NOT recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older and of sound mind are required;
  3. Testators of younger age if lawfully married or emancipated may be recognized as testators.

State Law: Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. Volume 03, Chapter 112 § 112.225

State Law
Pennsylvania
  1. Holographic wills are recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older and of sound mind are required.

State Law: Pa. Cons. & Uncons. Stat. Ann., Title 20, Chapter 25 § 2501

State Law
Rhode Island
  1. Holographic wills are NOT recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older and of sound mind are required.

State Law: R.I. Gen. Laws Title 33, Chapter 33-5, § 33-5-2

State Law
South Carolina
  1. Holographic wills are NOT recognized;
  2. Any individual of sound mind and NOT a minor is required to be a testator.

State Law: S.C. Code Ann. Title 62, Article 2, § 62-2-501

State Law
South Dakota
  1. Holographic wills are recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older and of sound mind are required.

State Law: S.D. Codified Laws Title 29A, Chapter 02 § 29A-2-501

State Law
Tennessee
  1. Holographic wills are recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older and of sound mind are required.

State Law: Tenn. Code Ann. Title 32, Chapter 1, Part 1 § 32-1-102

State Law
Texas
  1. Holographic wills are recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older, married or a member of the US armed forces, and of sound mind are required.

State Law: Tex. Stat. Ann., Estates Code, Title 2, Subtitle F, Chapter 251 § 251.001

State Law
Utah
  1. Holographic wills are recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older and of sound mind are required.

State Law: Utah Code Ann. Title 75, Chapter 2 Part 5 § 501

State Law
Vermont
  1. Holographic wills are NOT recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older, emancipated by court, and of sound mind are required.

State Law: Vt. Stat. Ann. Title 14, Chapter 1 § 5

State Law
Virginia
  1. Holographic wills are recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older and emancipated minors of sound mind are required.

State Law: Va. Code Ann. Title 64-2, Chapter 4 § 64-2-401

State Law
Washington
  1. Holographic wills are NOT recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older and of sound mind are required.

State Law: Wash. Rev. Code Ann. Title 11 Chapter 11-12 § 11-12-010

State Law
West Virginia
  1. Holographic wills are recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older and emancipated minors of sound mind are required.

State Law: WV Code Ann. Chapter 41, Article 1 § 41-1-1

State Law
Wisconsin
  1. Holographic wills are NOT recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older and of sound mind are required.

State Law: Wis. Stat. Ann. Chapter 853 § 853-01

State Law
Wyoming
  1. Holographic wills are recognized;
  2. Testators of 18 years or older and emancipated minors of sound mind are required.

State Law: Wyo. Stat. Ann. Title 2 Chapter 6 Article 1 § 2-6-101

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Frequently Asked Questions

What should you not include in a last will and testament?
  • Business interests: You should leave out any business interests from your last will and testament to facilitate a seamless transition and expedite the probate procedure.
  • Personal wishes: Your wishes could be best expressed in a letter of intent or a trust for greater control over your estate.
  • Certain property: Accounts with a named beneficiary that, upon death, automatically distribute funds to the beneficiary. Property that is jointly owned vests instantly in each co-owner. Also, another distinct asset not subject to probate is trust property..
What are the eight steps of preparing a will?

Although it might appear complicated, creating a last will and testament only requires eight simple steps. Use our template to speed up the process as you proceed by following the steps below:

  1. Choose how to create your will: While some prefer a will, others prefer to place their inheritance in a living trust, reducing taxes and guaranteeing that heirs follow their desires.
  2. Create a list of assets: Include your accounts and other vital assets, such as personal property, real estate, stocks, and pensions.
  3. Choose your beneficiaries: Decide on who or what you want to get your property when you pass away. They could be people, businesses, or nonprofit organizations.
  4. Choose a guardian: If you have young children, you must decide who you want to be their guardian if you die before they turn 18.
  5. Draft the will: It's wise to speak with a lawyer who can provide insightful advice. Or, you can download our basic form and fill it out with your details for a quicker and more affordable option.
  6. Name your executor: According to your last will and testament, this individual is responsible for the asset distribution.
  7. Make your will official: Most states demand that two witnesses, both of whom must be at least 18 and not be beneficiaries of the will, sign your will, and some further want that it be notarized.
  8. Keep your will updated: Ensure that your will is updated regularly or following a significant life event, such as a change in marital status or the sale or purchase of the real estate.
     
Can I write my own will and get it notarized?

Yes, it’s possible to draft your own will and have it notarized. You can find the nearest notarization services by searching "Notary Public in X," and replacing "X" with your area's district or neighborhood.

Your will must adhere to the proper format and contain all necessary components to be considered legally valid. When bringing your will in for notarization, double-verify this to ensure it will be accepted. This is where our template for a will and living testament can help! Use our form to ensure you haven't forgotten any crucial details.

It's also important to remember that notarization might not be necessary. Only some states have this criterion. The document is valid without being notarized if doing so is not required in your jurisdiction. For your convenience, fill out our form, have witnesses sign it, and you have a valid last will and testament.

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