Last Will and Testament Template (Will)

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Updated November 09, 2022

A last will and testament or will allows a person (“testator”) to make a sworn statement about which person or people (“beneficiary”) will receive real estate and personal property after their death. Most states require two disinterested witnesses to sign in order for the will to be valid. After signing, copies should be given to all beneficiaries and the testator’s attorney.

Table of Contents

By State

What to Include in a Will

A will should include the following sections:

1. Debts

How outstanding debts, like funeral expenses or any other expenditures that would be left behind by the testator would be paid.

2. Beneficiaries

The names of every individual who will be eligible to receive the estate.

3. Assets and property

A list of all valuables and to which beneficiary the assets will be given.

4. Personal representative (executor)

The testator will list a trusted person that is put in charge of paying bills, handling accounts, and distributing property among the beneficiaries. It’s usually recommended that the executor not be a beneficiary and instead be an attorney.

5. Testator’s signature

In order to be valid, the will must be signed in accordance with state law, and the testator must be of sound mind. If the testator is found to have signed under duress, the will would be considered invalid.

6. Witness signatures

Most states require two disinterested witnesses to sign the will, but check the state signing requirements.

 

Sample

LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT

I, [NAME], resident in the City of [CITY], County of [COUNTY], State of [STATE], being of sound mind, not acting under duress or undue influence, and fully understanding the nature and extent of all my property and of this disposition thereof, do hereby make, publish, and declare this document to be my Last Will and Testament, and hereby revoke any and all other wills and codicils heretofore made by me.

1. EXPENSES & TAXES. I direct that all my debts, and expenses of my last illness, funeral, and burial, be paid as soon after my death as may be reasonably convenient, and I hereby authorize my Personal Representative to settle and discharge at their discretion any claims made against my estate.

I further direct that my Personal Representative shall pay out of my estate any and all estate and inheritance taxes payable by reason of my death in respect of all items included in the computation of such taxes, whether passing under this Will or otherwise. Said taxes shall be paid by my Personal Representative as if such taxes were my debts without recovery of any part of such tax payments from anyone who receives any item included in such computation.

2. PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE. I nominate and appoint [NAME], of [CITY], County of [COUNTY], State of [STATE] as Personal Representative of my estate and I request that (he/she) be appointed temporary Personal Representative if (he/she) applies. If my Personal Representative fails or ceases to so serve, then I nominate [NAME] of [CITY], County of [COUNTY], State of [STATE] to serve.

3. DISPOSITION OF PROPERTY. I devise and bequeath my property, both real and personal and wherever situated, as follows:

1st Beneficiary: [NAME], currently of [ADDRESS], as my [RELATION] whose last four (4) digits of their Social Security Number (SSN) are xxx-xx-[SSN] with the following property: [PROPERTY TO BE BEQUEATHED]

2nd Beneficiary: [NAME], currently of [ADDRESS], as my [RELATION] whose last four (4) digits of their Social Security Number (SSN) are xxx-xx-[SSN] with the following property: [PROPERTY TO BE BEQUEATHED]

3rd Beneficiary: [NAME], currently of [ADDRESS], as my [RELATION whose last four (4) digits of their Social Security Number (SSN) are xxx-xx-[SSN] with the following property: [PROPERTY TO BE BEQUEATHED]

If any of my beneficiaries have pre-deceased me, then any property that they would have received if they had not pre-deceased me shall be distributed in equal shares to the remaining beneficiaries.

If any of my property cannot be readily sold and distributed, it may be donated to any charitable organization(S) of my Personal Representative’s choice.  If any property cannot be sold or donated, my Personal Representative may dispose of such property. I authorize my Personal Representative to pay administration expenses of my estate.

4. BOND. I direct that my executor shall not be required to give any bond or security for the performance of their duties.

5. DISCRETIONARY POWERS OF PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE. My Personal Representative, shall have and may exercise the following discretionary powers in addition to any common law or statutory powers without the necessity of court license or approval:

A. To retain for whatever period my Personal Representative deems advisable any property, and to invest and reinvest in any property, both real and personal.
B. To sell and to grant options to purchase all or any part of my estate, both real and personal, at any time, at public or private sale.
C. To lease any real estate for terms and conditions as my Personal Representative deems advisable.
D. To pay, compromise, settle or otherwise adjust any claims, including taxes, asserted in favor of or against me, my estate or my Personal Representative.
E. To make any separation into shares in whole or in part in kind and to allocate different kinds and disproportionate amounts of property and undivided interests in property among the shares.
F. To make such elections under the tax laws as my Personal Representative shall deem appropriate and to determine whether to make any adjustments between income and principal on account of any election so made.
G. To make any elections permitted under any pension, profit sharing, employee stock ownership or other benefit plan.
H. To employ others in connection with the administration of my estate and to pay reasonable compensation in addition to my Personal Representative’s compensation.
I. To vote any shares of stock or other securities in person or by proxy; to assert or waive any stockholder’s rights or privilege to subscribe for or otherwise acquire additional stock; to deposit securities in any voting trust or with any committee.
J. To borrow and to pledge or mortgage any property as collateral, and to make secured or unsecured loans. No individual or entity loaning property to my Personal Representative or trustee shall be held to see to the application of such property.
K. My Personal Representative shall also at his or her discretion determine the allocation of any GST exemption available to me at my death to property passing under this Will or otherwise. The determination of my Personal Representative with respect to any elections or allocation shall be binding upon all affected.

6. CONTESTING BENEFICIARY. If any beneficiary under this Will, or any trust herein mentioned, contests or attacks this Will or any of its provisions, any share or interest in my estate given to that contesting beneficiary under this Will is revoked.

7. GENDER. The term “Personal Representative” shall include “Executor” and “Administrator.” The use of a particular gender shall include any other gender, and references to the singular or the plural shall be interchangeable. All references to the Internal Revenue Code shall mean the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 or any successor Code. All references to estate taxes shall include inheritance and other death taxes.

8. ASSIGNMENT. The interest of any beneficiary in this Will, shall not be alienable, assignable, attachable, transferable nor paid by way of anticipation, nor in compliance with any order, assignment or covenant and shall not be applied to, or held liable for, any of their debts or obligations either in law or equity and shall not in any event pass to his, her, or their assignee under any instrument or under any insolvency or bankruptcy law, and shall not be subject to the interference or control of creditors, spouses or others.

9. GOVERNING LAW. This document shall be governed by the laws of the State of [STATE].

10. BINDING ARRANGEMENT. Any decision by my Personal Representative concerning any discretionary power hereunder shall be final and binding on all interested persons. Unless due to my Executor’s own willful default or gross negligence, no Executor shall be liable for said Executor’s acts or omissions or those of any co‑Executor or prior Executor.

I, the undersigned [NAME], do hereby declare that I sign and execute this instrument as my last Will, that I sign it willingly in the presence of each of the undersigned witnesses, and that I execute it as my free and voluntary act for the purposes herein expressed, on this [DAY] day of [MONTH], 20[YEAR].

________________________________      ___________________________________
Testator Signature                                      Testator (Printed Name)

The foregoing instrument, was on this [X] day of [MONTH], 20[X], subscribed on each page and at the end thereof by [NAME], the above-named Testator, and by (him/her) signed, sealed, published and declared to be (his/her) LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT, in the presence of us and each of us, who thereupon, at (his/her) request, in (his/her) presence, and in the presence of each other, have hereunto subscribed our names as attesting witnesses thereto.

________________________________      ___________________________________
Witness Signature                                           Address

________________________________      ___________________________________
Witness Signature                                           Address

How to Make a Will (5 steps)

  1. Identify Your Assets
  2. Appoint a Personal Representative (Executor)
  3. Choose Your Beneficiaries
  4. Sign
  5. Store the Will

1. Identify Your Assets

testator writing down list of assets

Make a list of all the assets of the testator. This should also include any debts to help prepare the personal representative (executor) of the will.

2. Appoint a Personal Representative (Executor)

testator reviewing list of assets with executor

A personal representative (or executor) is a person that will be in charge of delivering the testator’s assets to the beneficiaries after death. It is recommended that a personal representative be a trusted attorney and not a beneficiary.

3. Choose Your Beneficiaries

testator in conversation with beneficiaries

The beneficiaries are the people who will receive the property and assets of the testator. If there are any children of family members that shouldn’t be included, this should be specifically mentioned in the will.

4. Sign

testator signing will in front of witnesses and notary official

Under most states, a will can be signed with two disinterested witnesses (except Colorado and Louisiana, which require a notary public). However, it is highly recommended to have notarized as a last will and testament can be contested for any reason by disgruntled family members that were left out.

5. Store Your Will

testator reviewing will

A will is meant to be kept in a safe place with original copies provided to the beneficiaries and legal counsel. At the option of the testator, they may register the will with the probate court in their county (if applicable).

How to Sign a Will

Use the state laws below to find out the requirements to sign. If two witnesses are required to sign, they must be disinterested individuals, which means they cannot benefit in any way from the last will.

Self-Proving Affidavit – Recommended to attach to the last will and allows for the testator and witnesses to have their signatures notarized.
State Signing Requirements
 Alabama  § 43-8-131
Two Witnesses
 Alaska  AS 13.12.502
Two Witnesses
 Arizona  § 14-2502
Two Witnesses
 Arkansas  § 28-25-102
Two Witnesses
 California  6110
Two Witnesses
 Colorado  § 15-11-502
Two Witnesses or Notary Public
 Connecticut  Section 45a-251
Two Witnesses
 Delaware  DE Title 12, Chapter 2 § 201 & 202
Two Witnesses
 Florida  FL Section 732.502
Two Witnesses
 Georgia  GA Section 53-4-20
Two Witnesses
 Hawaii  HI Section 560:2-502
Two Witnesses
 Idaho  ID Section 15-2-502
Two Witnesses
 Illinois  Section 755 ILCS 5/4-3
Two Witnesses
 Indiana  IC 29-1-5-3
Two Witnesses
 Iowa  Section 633.279
Two Witnesses
 Kansas  Section 59-606
Two Witnesses
 Kentucky  Section 394.040
Two Witnesses
 Louisiana  Art. 1577
Two Witnesses and a Notary Public
 Maine  Section 2-502
Two Witnesses
 Maryland  Section 4-102
Two Witnesses
 Massachusetts  Section 2-502
Two Witnesses
 Michigan  Section 700-2502
Two Witnesses
 Minnesota  Section 524.2-502
Two Witnesses
 Mississippi  Section 91-5-1
Two Witnesses
 Missouri  Section 474.320
Two Witnesses
 Montana  Section 72-2-522
Two Witnesses
 Nebraska  Section 30-2327
Two Witnesses
 Nevada  NRS 133.040
Two Witnesses
 New Hampshire  Chapter 551
Two Witnesses
 New Jersey  Section 3B:3-2
Two Witnesses
 New Mexico  Section 45-2-502
Two Witnesses
 New York  Section 3-1.1
Two Witnesses
 North Carolina  G.S. 31-3.3
Two Witnesses
 North Dakota  30.1-08-02. (2-502)
Two Witnesses
 Ohio  ORC 2107.03
Two Witnesses
 Oklahoma  84 OK Stat § 84-55
Two Witnesses
 Oregon  ORS 112.235
Two Witnesses
 Pennsylvania  Title 20 § 2502
Two Witnesses
 Rhode Island  Section 33-5-5
Two Witnesses
 South Carolina  Section 62-2-502
Two Witnesses
 South Dakota  Section 29A-2-502
Two Witnesses
 Tennessee  Section 32-1-104
Two Witnesses
 Texas  Sec. 251.051
Two Witnesses
 Utah  75-2-502
Two Witnesses
 Vermont  14 V.S.A. § 5
Two Witnesses
 Virginia  § 64.2-403
Two Witnesses
 Washington  CW 11.12.020
Two Witnesses
 Washington D.C. § 18-103
Two Witnesses
 West Virginia  Section 41-1-3
Two Witnesses
 Wisconsin  Section 853.03
Two Witnesses
 Wyoming Section 2-6-112
Two Witnesses

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it necessary to have a will?

No, but when a person dies without a last will and testament, they leave their assets in the hands of the court system. Because of this, disputes and confusion can easily arise between family members. Every adult benefits from having a will, especially those that have assets of value.

Which state governs my will?

Where the testator resides is the state that governs the will, but for those that live in multiple states, the presiding state would be considered the one in which the testator pays personal income tax.

Which types of personal property can I include?

Personal property is any type of possession with value that does not include cash. Personal property includes vehicles, jewelry, collectibles, furniture, etc. A testator may choose to give all of their personal property to one person or proportionately allocate personal property to multiple beneficiaries.

What happens if a beneficiary dies?

If the primary beneficiary dies before the testator, that deceased beneficiary can be removed from the will. If a second recipient/beneficiary is listed, the property will be distributed to them. In some states that use the Uniform Probate Code, a beneficiary must survive for at least five days following a testator’s death to inherit property.

If there is no alternate beneficiary to inherit the estate upon death, the will would then be subject to the governing state’s “Anti-Lapse” Laws.

Can I appoint someone to take care of my pets?

Yes. In your will, you can select a person to be the caretaker (guardian) of your pets upon your passing.

How do I amend a will?

The testator can amend a will with a codicil to a will (or simply a “codicil”). Wills can be amended for any reason, such as changing the executor, personal representative, beneficiary(ies), or any other facet of the estate transfer. The codicil is required to be attached to the will and signed under state law.

Intestate (No Will After Death) – What Happens?

Dying intestate means that an individual passed away without a will. In this case, the court would determine how assets are handled and who is awarded real and personal property. Court decisions can take many months and must be agreed to by the family members (heirs).

If no will was recorded by the deceased individual, and the estate is valued under a certain amount (governed by state limits), the property may be distributed through a small estate affidavit.


Estate Planning Checklist

Use this checklist as a guide to ensure an individual’s estate is complete to the fullest extent by law, which includes incorporating end-of-life decisions. Power of attorney forms, for example, allows individuals to choose a representative to make financial and medical decisions on their behalf if they cannot do it themselves.

In addition, a living will allows a person to make decisions about their medical treatment requests that precede a potential incapacitating event, like donating organs in the event of death, receiving pain medication, or accepting or rejecting resuscitation measures.