Written by ArticleReword Updated at Sep 19, 2023 | Reading time: 5
Before diving into the process of writing and notarizing your own will, it's crucial to understand the fundamental concepts:
A will, often referred to as a Last Will and Testament, is a legal document that outlines your wishes regarding the distribution of your assets, guardianship of minor children, and other important decisions after your death.
You, the person creating the will, are known as the testator.
Beneficiaries are the individuals or entities you designate to inherit your assets and belongings.
An executor is the person you appoint to carry out the instructions in your will, ensuring that your wishes are followed.
The DIY Will-Writing Process
Writing your own will can be a straightforward process if your estate is relatively simple and you follow certain guidelines:
You can find will templates online or purchase a DIY will kit at a bookstore. Alternatively, you can draft your will from scratch, but this approach may be riskier in terms of legal validity.
Begin your will by stating your full name and address. This introduction confirms your identity as the testator.
Name an executor in your will. Ensure it's someone you trust to carry out your wishes and handle your estate affairs.
Clearly identify who will inherit your assets, specifying their full names and relationships to you.
Detail how you want your assets distributed among your beneficiaries. Include any specific bequests, such as sentimental items or cash gifts.
If you have minor children, designate a guardian in your will to ensure their well-being in the event of your passing.
Include a residuary clause that covers any assets not specifically mentioned in the will. This ensures that nothing is left out.
In most jurisdictions, you'll need two witnesses to sign your will. These witnesses should be impartial and unrelated to any beneficiaries. They will confirm that you signed the will voluntarily and that you were of sound mind when doing so.
While a DIY will is a less formal option, using clear and legally precise language is essential to avoid ambiguity or misinterpretation.
Although a DIY will is possible, it's advisable to consult with an attorney, especially if your estate is complex, you have substantial assets, or there are potential issues with heirs contesting the will. Legal guidance can help ensure that your will accurately reflects your wishes and adheres to your state's specific laws.
After you have drafted your DIY will, you may wonder whether you should have it notarized. Notarization involves a notary public, a legally authorized individual, witnessing your signature and confirming your identity. While notarization is not always required for a will to be valid, it can add an extra layer of authenticity and may simplify the probate process later on.
Here are the steps to notarize your DIY will:
Find a notary public in your area. You can often find them at banks, law offices, or through online services.
Contact the notary to schedule an appointment. Ensure you bring your completed will and a valid form of identification, such as a driver's license or passport.
During the appointment, you'll sign your will in the presence of the notary.
The notary will complete an acknowledgment certificate, typically affixing their seal or stamp to the document. This certificate confirms that they witnessed your signature and verified your identity.
After notarization, make copies of your notarized will and store them in a safe place. Inform your executor and close family members about the location of your will.
Safeguarding Your Will
Once your DIY will is notarized, it's essential to keep it safe. Consider these precautions:
Store the original notarized will in a secure location, such as a bank's safe deposit box, to prevent loss or damage.
Make sure your chosen executor knows where to find the original will in case of your passing.
Keep multiple copies of the notarized will in different locations, including digital copies stored securely.
Review and update your will as needed, especially after significant life events like marriage, divorce, or the birth of children.
Writing your own will and having it notarized is a viable option for many individuals, especially those with simple estates. However, it's essential to follow the proper legal guidelines and consider consulting an attorney for added peace of mind. A notarized will can provide an extra layer of authenticity and may streamline the probate process. Regardless of how you choose to create your will, the most crucial aspect is ensuring that it accurately reflects your wishes and protects your loved ones after your passing.
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