Statutory wills are wills created by a state legislature and written into state law. Residents of the state may use these wills at no cost, however will makers must use them exactly as they are written, filling in the blanks with their own information.
The text of a traditional will is tailored to the will maker's needs, while the text of a statutory will cannot be altered. With a statutory will form, you simply take the form that the state provides, and fill in your information.
There are three significant benefits to using a statutory will:
There is one huge disadvantage to using a statutory will: you cannot tailor it to your situation. Statutory wills are simple, one-size-fits-all documents. You take it as it's written and cannot change the language or add clauses to suit your needs. As a result, they rarely work perfectly for anyone.
Statutory will forms are most useful for those who want or need a very simple, straightforward will. The state legislatures who have created statutory wills did so to provide a no-cost estate planning tool that anyone can use. But because the wills are so simple they should rarely be a first choice will for anyone.
Use a statutory will form:
In any case, read the statutory will carefully and make sure you understand what effect it will have on your property when you die. The last thing you want is to create a will that does not reflect your wishes. An ill-fitting will could be worse than not having a will at all. (Read more about dying without a will Nolo's Will FAQ).
Only a few states provide statutory will forms. They are: California, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, and Wisconsin. If your state does not have a statutory will form, you should not use one from another state. Instead, find a you-it-yourself product that fits your needs.
To learn more about making a will yourself, see Using a Will Template. And to learn more about wills in general, go to the Wills section of Nolo.com.