How to make a will in 10 easy steps
When it comes to how to make a will, there are a few basic steps to follow:
- Begin by clearly stating that the document is your last will and testament.
- Identify yourself by providing your full legal name and address.
- Appoint an executor to carry out your wishes after your passing.
- Outline how you want your assets, such as property, money, and possessions, to be distributed among your chosen beneficiaries.
- Specify guardianship for minor children, if applicable.
- Sign and date the will in the presence of witnesses, usually two or three adults who are not beneficiaries.
- Store the original will in a safe place and inform a trusted individual of its location.
So, that’s the process in a nutshell. Let’s now take a look at it in a little more detail and explain how PandaDoc can help.
How to make a will for free in 10 steps
Most people would benefit from creating a will, but many balk at the perceived costs. Few realize that making a will for free is actually relatively easy.
The steps below can help anyone who wants to make a will online.
The first thing you need to do is decide on a method. You also need to understand what makes a will legal.
Using an online template can help guide you through the legal complexities and ensure your last will and testament meets the legal requirements (including for the state you live in).
We’re not expecting you to become fluent in legalese overnight, but there arecertain ways of saying things to ensure your will is legally valid. These include:
- Clearly stating this is your last will and testament.
- Including your full name to make clear this is your will specifically.
- Stating you’re of sound mind and no one is influencing you to write the will.
The latter statement (which is automatically included in all PandaDoc templates) can help discourage people from trying to invalidate a will in probate court.
If you have parental responsibility for any child under 18, you’ll need to identify a legal guardian in the event of your death.
If you have a spouse or partner, this will usually be them, but it can be another family member or even a close friend.
You may also want to nominate an additional person in case your primary choice can’t fulfill their duties under your will.
Your will needs to clearly identify the assets you currently own and want to be passed to others.
These might include physical assets, such as property, vehicles, or even family heirlooms and jewelry.
It should include financial assets too, such as bank accounts, investments, and retirement pots.
Be specific in your listing and accurately describe each asset.
Once you’ve listed your assets, you need to state who will inherit them. You must include each beneficiary’s full legal name to avoid confusion.
Again, a PandaDoc template can guide you through this step.
You should also consider secondary beneficiaries in case you outlive the primaries and don’t get around to making a new will.
If you plan to leave anything to charity, ensure you clearly identify which charity and include any tax identification details (e.g. an EIN number).
6. Living wills
While wills mainly focus on what happens after we die, you might also want to think about what happens if you’re in an accident or have a disease that diminishes or removes your mental or physical capabilities.
A living will can inform your loved ones of your wishes regarding things such as medical treatment or end-of-life care (in the event of you being unable to communicate with them).
If you have pets, you probably see them as furry family members.
However, they’re regarded as property by law, so unfortunately, you can’t list them as beneficiaries.
You can name a guardian for them, though. It’s a good idea to first discuss this with the person you’ve chosen.
You can also nominate that person to receive a portion of your estate to cover ongoing expenses such as food and vet bills.
Your executor is the person who will carry out the requests made in your will. It should identify who that person will be.
They’ll be responsible for ensuring your wishes are met, and your assets are distributed to the listed beneficiaries.
This one is important. Unlike many other documents, most US states do not accept electronic signatures on wills.
That means once you’ve completed your online will, you’ll need to print it off and sign it in front of witnesses.
The majority of states require two witnesses — ideally, with no vested interest in your will.
A will isn’t much use if nobody knows where it is.
So, once it’s been signed and properly witnessed, make sure you store it somewhere safe.
You should let family members know where it is so they can access it if needed.
Why making a will is important
Your will is a legally binding document that lists your wishes in the event of your death (or, in the case of a living will, what you want to happen if you’re incapacitated).
Wills can go beyond the disposal of assets and also identify who you want to act as guardian for your children (or even your pets).
You can include any specific requirements when it comes to your funeral arrangements too.
Unfortunately, without a will, there’s a chance your family and friends could become embroiled in messy legal arguments over who inherits what — something we’re sure you’d rather avoid.
Make a free will online and handle other vital documents effectively with PandaDoc
It’s understandable that people may feel apprehensive about legal matters.
That’s why PandaDoc has made it easy to fulfill various legal obligations with a range of free and easy-to-use online templates.
When it comes to having your wishes honored after you pass away, you want to be sure everything is done properly.
PandaDoc makes this process simple with its last will and testament template, covering all legal requirements.