Most people know that they should have a will, but many don't know what a will is and how it works.
What is a will? A will, sometimes called a "last will and testament," is a document that states your final wishes, including how you want to distribute your property. It is read by a county probate court after your death, and the court makes sure that your final wishes are carried out.
Most people use a will to leave instructions about what should happen to their property after they die. What else is in a will? You can also use a will to:
Learn more about why it's important to have a will.
You shouldn't try to use a will to:
To learn more, read What a Will Won't Do. If you want to do any of these things, get help from a lawyer.
There are very few legal requirements for wills. To make a will in any U.S. state, you must:
While you don't need to get your will notarized, you may make a notarized self-proving affidavit that accompanies your will. This additional step will make the probate process faster and easier for your inheritors.
Wills can vary in their exact purpose, form, and structure. For example:
You can hire a lawyer to write a will for you, or you can write a will yourself using a reputable service.
You can make your will (and other estate planning documents) quickly and easily, using Nolo's WillMaker.
There are no magic words that must be used to create a will. The best advice for writing your own will is to find a good will writing tool to help you. It should help you use clear, unambiguous language to accurately describe your wishes. It should also explain your options and help you decide what to include in your will. For example:
And a good will-making product will help you know when you should see a lawyer for help with writing your will. For example, you should talk to a lawyer if you:
If you prefer to create a will using the guidance of a book, try The Quick & Legal Will Book, by Denis Clifford (Nolo).
Need a lawyer? Start here.