Comply With the Statute of Wills
- Each state has its own laws regarding wills and estates. While they differ slightly, the vast majority of the state's require the following for a valid will: It must be written, the testator (the person who is making the will) must intend that the document be his or her will, and the document must be signed by the testator and two witnesses. No magic words or legal jargon is required beyond these three basic items. When you are ready to begin, grab a sheet of paper and a pen and get to work.
Determine Your Assets and Pick Your Beneficiaries
- Before writing the actual will, sit down and figure out exactly what you own. Note, however, that this does not mean you have to write every little piece of personal property you have (such as one computer, two television sets, a toothbrush, etc). Listing "personal effects" will cover it. Instead, think about the big picture: what land do you own (if any); what rights do you have to pass (such as powers of appointment or annuity payments); what bank accounts do you have; and what insurance policies do you have. Once you determine the extent of your estate, take some time to choose who you will give these items to. Sketch this out first; it will make writing your will easier.
Write Your Will
- Start by declaring your testamentary intent. Writing "I, Bob Smith, intend that this be my last will and testament" will suffice. Once this is written, write out your wishes. As mentioned above, no magic language is needed. Just write clearly. This is especially at issue for handwritten wills: people need to be able to read your will so write it clearly and legibly. List each gift and describe it if need be; next, explain who is getting that gift. An example would be: "My blue 1976 Chevrolet Corvette kept in my garage is given to my son, Bill Smith." A blanket gift, such as saying "I give my entire estate to my wife" is also acceptable.
When you have finished writing your will, sign it and have two other witnesses sign it. These witnesses can be anyone; two clerks at your grocery store would suffice. The point is that two people need to be able to say "Yes, this is Bob Smith's will; we signed it." Keep the will in a safe place. Remember to update it if anything changes in your life (such as if you get divorced or buy/sell property).