How to Create a Legal Will

If you want to make sure your assets go where you want them after death, a legal will is the only way. It’s not a complicated process, but if you don’t plan well, your family and beneficiaries could face confusion and delays. Fortunately, there are services that can help you create your will. These companies offer everything from stand-alone services to bundles that include other estate planning documents, such as trusts or power of attorney forms. Some also offer additional perks, such as the option to have your documents reviewed by an outside lawyer for an extra fee.

Decide who will receive what you have. For example, you might want to leave some of your estate to your extended family or a favorite charity. You should also choose a legal guardian for any minor children create a legal will you have and specify a trustee for any trusts you set up in your will. It’s a good idea to have conversations with your potential beneficiaries and guardian before you finalize the choices, as circumstances may change over time.

Consider the assets you can legally bequeath. You might have joint bank accounts or other agreements with your spouse that could impact how these assets are distributed. You should also review any prior legal contracts, such as prenuptial agreements or trusts, that could have an effect on your estate plans.

Determine the amount you’d like to give each beneficiary and divide your estate accordingly. Be sure to factor in any taxable or untaxed assets, such as real estate or business interests. Also consider any debts, final expenses and closing financial accounts that will need to be paid when you die.

Identify any conditional gifts you’d like to include. For example, you might want to leave property to someone “if and when” they finish college or start a new career. While this is a nice idea, putting conditions on gifts can complicate matters and lead to problems. If you have any questions about what your assets are worth or how to divide them, it’s a good idea to consult an expert.

Review your document and sign it in the presence of two witnesses. Each state has its own laws on how many witnesses are required and who can serve as witnesses. You should use witnesses who don’t stand to inherit from your estate and know you well. This will ensure that they can testify that you were of sound mind when you signed your will and understood what you were doing.

There are some services that will walk you through the entire process and even print your document for you. However, you can also do this on your own using free online templates. Just be sure to review any legal requirements for your state or country, such as how much space is needed and whether a signature line or witness section is required. Most importantly, be sure to make multiple copies and keep them in a safe place.