Last Will and Testament Template (Will)

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Updated June 27, 2022

A last will and testament or will allows a person (testator) to make a sworn statement as to who will receive real estate and personal property in their possession after their death. After signing, the will should be distributed to all the beneficiaries and to the testator’s attorney.

Signing Requirements

Two (2) disinterested witnesses are required to make a will valid in every state except Colorado and Louisiana; they both require two (2) disinterested witnesses and a notary public (see table).

  • Disinterested Witness – An individual that has nothing to gain if the testator dies (cannot be a beneficiary).
  • Self-Proving Affidavit (optional) – Recommended being attached for the witnesses to swear under oath that they were in the presence of the testator while they signed.

By State

Table of Contents

What Should be Included

  • Beneficiaries – Names of individuals who will be eligible to receive the estate;
  • Assets and property – List all valuables;
  • Personal representative (executor) – Who will be responsible for distributing the estate; and
  • Testator’s signature – Must be signed in accordance with state law).

How to Make a Will (5 steps)

Step 1 – Identify Your 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.

Step 2. Appoint a Personal Representative (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.

Step 3. Choose Your 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.

Step 4. Sign

Under most states, a will can be signed with two (2) disinterested witnesses (except Colorado and Louisiana which require a notary public). Although, it is highly recommended to have notarized as a will can be contested for any reason by disgruntled family members were left out.

Step 5 – Store Your 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).

Video

How to Write a Will

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I. Introduction To Will

(1) Title. This declaration must have a title that immediately divulges its purpose to Reviewers. Thus, complete the title by furnishing the legal name of the Testator after the words “Last Will And Testament…” This will be the Party issuing this document as final instructions for the distribution of the assets he or she has accrued over his or her lifetime.

(2) Name Of the Testator. The Testator’s full name must be reproduced on the first blank line in the introduction. Produce his or her name precisely as it was reported in the title of this document.

(3) City Of Residence. The name of the City where the Testator lives should be dispensed to aid in supporting the Testator’s identity. Supply the second space of this statement with this information.

(4) County Of Residence. Continue furnishing details regarding where the Testator maintains his or her residence by providing the name of the County where his or her home is found to the third available space.

(5) State Or Residence. Identify the State where the Testator lives as requested by this introduction.

II. Personal Representative

(6) Testator Personal Representative. Generally, a Personal Representative of the Testator will handle the assets of his or her estate after death. The Personal Representative should be a Party who is fully aware of the Testator’s last wishes and prepared to carry them out on his or her behalf. In order for the Personal Representative to wield such power, his or her full name must be presented on the first line of the Second Article.

(7) Address Of Residence. The home address of the Testator’s Personal Representative must also be documented in the Second Article. This address should be the physical address of the Personal Representative’s home thus requiring that the building number, street, and city of this residence be produced on the space preceding the bracketed “Address” label.

(8) County Of Residence. The name of the County where the Testator’s home is located should be documented on the space preceding the word “County.”

(9) State Of Residence. Complete reporting on the Personal Representative by producing the name of the State where he or she lives on the final line of this statement.

(10) Name Of Alternate Representative. If the Testator passes away, the dispersal of his or her estate will be left up to the instructions placed in this document an the actions of the Testator’s Personal Representative. Unfortunately, there may be scenarios where the appointed Personal Representative would not be able to act in this capacity. To handle such a scenario, an alternate Personal Representative of the Testator may be named with the ability to handle this responsibility. Produce the name of the alternate Representative where requested. Keep in mind that unless specifically instructed in this will or in a legal codicil, the Alternate Personal Representative will have no power to handle the assets of the Testator’s estate unless he or she is named here and the original Personal Representative is ineffective or otherwise cannot/will not act in this role.

(11) Address Of Representative. Produce the full address (i.e. building number/street/apt/city) of the Alternate Personal Representative’s home on the line labeled “Address.”

(12) County Of Residence. Dispense the name of the County where the Alternate Personal Representative’s home is located to the third available space.

(13) State Of Residence. Identify the State where the residence of the Alternate Personal Representative is found.

III. Disposition Of Property

(14) First Beneficiary Name. This paperwork must name each Beneficiary that the Testator wishes to give his or her property to after death. Three distinct sections are available so that three Beneficiaries can be established. If the Testator wishes to bequeath property to more than three Beneficiaries, additional sections may be inserted provided that each one is sequentially titled (i.e. 4th Beneficiary, 5th Beneficiary, 6th Beneficiary, etc.). Begin with the section titled “1st Beneficiary. The line labeled “Full Name” should be populated with the legal name of the First Party the Testator wishes to name as his or her Beneficiary and thus entitle to ownership over the property named in this section upon his or her death. While there is no real requirement for the order of the Beneficiaries being named in this document, it is generally customary to present them as either those with the closest relation to the Testator to those with the most distant relation to the Testator or in the order of the monetary worth of the inheritance being documented.

(15) Home Address Of First Beneficiary. Naturally, there should be no question concerning the identity of the First Beneficiary. This requires a report on the full address of the First Beneficiary. Thus document the building number of the First Beneficiary’s home address or residence along with the appropriate street name, apartment number, City, and State to the line labeled “Address.”

(16) Relationship To Testator. The way in which the Testator is related to the First Beneficiary must be established. Use the “Relation” line in the “1st Beneficiary” section to present how the First Beneficiary is related to the Testator (i.e. the Testator’s Daughter, Niece, Nephew, Son, Spouse, etc.)

(17) Social Security Number. The last four digits of the First Beneficiary’s social security number should be dispensed to the space attached to “XXX-XX-” This will solidify the identity of the First Beneficiary for Reviewers of this document.

(18) Property To Be Bequeathed. Every asset, whether it is a physical asset such as a boat or an intangible asset such as the shares in a company that the Testator wishes to give to the First Beneficiary upon his or her death must be identified in the final area of this section. This requires that each asset the First Beneficiary should inherit from the Testator is identified so that it may be found and ownership transferred. For example, if the First Beneficiary is to receive the contents of the Testator’s safe deposit box, then the Institute safekeeping the safe deposit box must be identified by name and address, the Testator’s account number (if applicable) should be reported, the means necessary to access the Testator’s safe deposit box should be explained clearly, the contents of the safe deposit box should be fully identified, and the estimated value of this box and each of its contents should be recorded.

(19) 2nd Beneficiary Name. Now that the First Beneficiary has been identified, the Second Beneficiary must be named. Utilize the first space in the “2nd Beneficiary” section to present the entire name of the next Party to receive property from the estate of the Testator. Naturally, the Second Beneficiary named here may not be the same as the first one named and may not inherit the same assets (unless a clear percentage of ownership is defined). Document the Second Beneficiary’s legal name to the first line of this section as it is known on his or her government issued I.D. (i.e. Driver’s License/State I.D.).

(20) Address Of Second Beneficiary. The Second Beneficiary’s home address will also need to be documented. Therefore, deliver the building number, street or road, apartment number, City as well as the State of the Second Beneficiary’s home address to the second available space in the Second Beneficiary statement.

(21) Relationship To Testator. Categorize the relationship the Second Beneficiary has with the Testator on the line labeled “Relation.”

(22) Social Security Number. The final four digits in the social security number of the Second Beneficiary must be dispensed where requested by the appropriately formatted area of the statement being attended (“2nd Beneficiary”).

(23) Testate Property To Be Disbursed. Each asset that the Testator wishes to be released to the Second Beneficiary must be clearly defined. The Testator may bequeath both tangible and intangible property to the Second Beneficiary as defined in this area. Thus, name each asset to be given to the Second Beneficiary in the space provided. In addition to identifying the asset by name, make sure to provide its identification number (i.e. a manufacturer’s ID number in the case of a tangible asset or the account number of an intangible asset), how it may be accessed or released to the Second Beneficiary as well as its monetary value. Only the assets documented in this area will be given to the Second Beneficiary.

(24) 3rd Beneficiary Name. The “3rd Beneficiary” section will allow a third individual to be given the right to inherit one or more assets from the Testator. Produce the legal name of the 3rd Beneficiary on the first available line in this section.

(25) Address Of Third Beneficiary. The complete address of the Third Beneficiary home must be submitted to the space provided.

(26) Relationship Status. The manner in which the Third Beneficiary is related to the Testator should be reported on the empty line preceding the “Relation” label.

(27) Social Security Number. Confirm the identity of the Third Beneficiary by recording the last four numbers found in his or her social security number on the third space of the “3rd Beneficiary” statement.

(28) Property To Inherited By Third Beneficiary. The Testator assets that should be released to the Third Beneficiary upon death and through this document must be listed to the final area in the section titled “3rd Beneficiary.” The details of each such asset recorded here should enable it to be found, accessed, and its ownership transferred to the Third Beneficiary.

XI. Governing Law

(29) State Of Jurisdiction. The State whose jurisdiction shall govern this will, the Testator’s estate, and its dispersal must be identified. In most cases, this will be the State where the Testator maintains his or her residence.

XII. Binding Arrangement

(30) Name Of Testator. A final declaration concerning the execution of this will must be prepared before the Testator may sign it. Furnish the Testator’s name on the blank line that follows the term “…The Undersigned.”

(31) Date Of Final Wishes. The date when the Testator signs his or her name should be delivered across the final three lines of this paragraph.

(32) Testator Signature. The Testator must sign his or her name as two Witnesses and a Notary Public watch. The “Testator Signature” line has been provided for this action.

(33) Testator Printed Name. Once he or she has signed this will, the Testator must print his or her name.

XIII. Witness Testimony To Testator Signature

(34) Date Of Witness Statement. The Witness statement provided will enable both Witnesses to easily verify that each has observed the Testator signing this document. This statement will require some minor preparation before the Witnesses may verify it. Begin by supplying the signature date of the Testator to the formatted area.

(35) Testator Verification. The name of the Testator who each Witness has watched sign this document should be dispensed to the second space of the Witness statement provided.

(36) Witness Signature And Address. Each Witness must read the statement provided after watching the Testator’s execution of this document then sign his or her name and record his or her address.

(37) Affidavit Confirmation. The Notary Public shall report on the signing process that the Testator has completed under observation. He or she will complete the affidavit statement once the requirements for this process are satisfied. The Notary Public will also require that the Testator and Witnesses each sign this affidavit before he or she submits the credentials, seal, and signature needed to complete the notarization process.

How to Sign a Will

Every state has its own requirements for the legality of your Will. The state of your primary residence will govern your Will. Most states require that you have two witnesses attest and sign your Will. Find your state below and be certain that you know the requirements.

State State Laws Execution Requirements
 Alabama  Title 43, Chapter 8  § 43-8-131
Two Witnesses
 Alaska  Title 13, Chapter 12  AS 13.12.502
Two Witnesses
 Arizona  Title 14  § 14-2502
Two Witnesses
 Arkansas  Title 28  § 28-25-102
Two Witnesses
 California  Sections 6100 to 6139  6110
Two Witnesses
 Colorado  CRS Title 15  § 15-11-502
Two Witnesses or Notary Public
 Connecticut  Chapter 802a  Section 45a-251
Two Witnesses
 Delaware  Title 12  DE Title 12, Chapter 2 § 201 & 202
Two Witnesses
 Florida  Chapter 732  FL Section 732.502
Two Witnesses
 Georgia  Title 53  GA Section 53-4-20
Two Witnesses
 Hawaii  Chapter 560  HI Section 560:2-502
Two Witnesses
 Idaho  Title 15  ID Section 15-2-502
Two Witnesses
 Illinois  755 ILCS 5  Section 755 ILCS 5/4-3
Two Witnesses
 Indiana  Title 29  IC 29-1-5-3
Two Witnesses
 Iowa  Chapter 633  Section 633.279
Two Witnesses
 Kansas  Chapter 59  Section 59-606
Two Witnesses
 Kentucky  Chapter 394  Section 394.040
Two Witnesses
 Louisiana  CC 1570  Art. 1577
Two Witnesses and a Notary Public
 Maine  Title 18-A, Article 2  Section 2-502
Two Witnesses
 Maryland  Title 4  Section 4-102
Two Witnesses
 Massachusetts  Chapter 190B  Section 2-502
Two Witnesses
 Michigan  Act 386 of 1998  Section 700-2502
Two Witnesses
 Minnesota  Chapter 524  Section 524.2-502
Two Witnesses
 Mississippi  Title 91, Chapter 5  Section 91-5-1
Two Witnesses
 Missouri  Chapter 474  Section 474.320
Two Witnesses
 Montana  Title 72  Section 72-2-522
Two Witnesses
 Nebraska  Chapter 30  Section 30-2327
Two Witnesses
 Nevada  Title 12  NRS 133.040
Two Witnesses
 New Hampshire  Chapter 551  Chapter 551
Two Witnesses
 New Jersey  Title 3B  Section 3B:3-2
Two Witnesses
 New Mexico  Chapter 45  Section 45-2-502
Two Witnesses
 New York  Estates, Powers, and Trusts  Section 3-1.1
Two Witnesses
 North Carolina  Chapter 31  G.S. 31-3.3
Two Witnesses
 North Dakota  Chapter 30.1-08  30.1-08-02. (2-502)
Two Witnesses
 Ohio  Chapter 2107  ORC 2107.03
Two Witnesses
 Oklahoma  Title 84  84 OK Stat § 84-55
Two Witnesses
 Oregon  Chapter 112  ORS 112.235
Two Witnesses
 Pennsylvania  Title 20  Title 20 § 2502
Two Witnesses
 Rhode Island  Title 33  Section 33-5-5
Two Witnesses
 South Carolina  Title 62  Section 62-2-502
Two Witnesses
 South Dakota  Chapter 29A-1  Section 29A-2-502
Two Witnesses
 Tennessee  Title 32  Section 32-1-104
Two Witnesses
 Texas  Probate Code  Sec. 251.051
Two Witnesses
 Utah  Title 75  75-2-502
Two Witnesses
 Vermont  Title 14  14 V.S.A. § 5
Two Witnesses
 Virginia  Title 64.2  § 64.2-403
Two Witnesses
 Washington  Title 11 RCW  CW 11.12.020
Two Witnesses
 Washington D.C. Title 18 DC Code § 18-103
Two Witnesses
 West Virginia  Chapter 41  Section 41-1-3
Two Witnesses
 Wisconsin  Chapter 853  Section 853.03
Two Witnesses
 Wyoming Title 2 (Wills, Decedents’ Estates and Probate Code) Section 2-6-112
Two Witnesses

How to Amend a Will

Use the Codicil to a Will (or simply a “codicil”) if the testator has decided to amend their Will. This can be for any reason such as changing the executor, personal representative, beneficiary(ies), or any other facet in the transfer of the estate. The Codicil is required to be attached to the Will and signed in accordance with State law.

Self-Proving Affidavit – It’s recommended that when any Will amendment occurs through a Codicil that the two (2) witnesses authorize to swear, under oath, that they watched the signature of the testator.

Will vs Living Trust

Both a Living Trust and a Will accomplish similar goals that deliver of ownership of person’s assets to their beneficiaries upon death. Although, there are differences depending on the circumstances of the individual.

Last Will and Testament

  • Probate court oversees your Last Will after your death.
  • Allows you to appoint a guardian for a minor.
  • Public knowledge after it is recorded.
  • Does Not avoid conservatorship, which is when a court appoints a representative to handle your finances. However, a conservatorship can be avoided with a Durable Power of Attorney, which will allow you to appoint a person of preference to handle your finances in the event you become incapacitated.

Living Trust

  • Probate court does not oversee a Living Trust. No jurisdiction.
  • Does Not allow you to appoint a guardian for a minor.
  • Private and therefore does not become public knowledge.
  • Avoids conservatorship. The successor trustee that you appoint will be responsible for transferring your property.

Will vs Living Will

A Living Will is directed towards your health care preferences if and when you become mentally incapacitated. It allows you to appoint a Health Care Proxy who will then carry out your health care preferences. A Last Will and Testament is legally enforced after your death which deals with the transfer of your assets and personal property.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Is it necessary to have a Will?

If you care about your family and for those that love you, you will not go another day without a Last Will and Testament. It’s very important, especially if you are in the later stages of your life with a spouse and/or children. When a person dies without a Will, they leave their assets in the hands of the court system. Because of this, disputes and confusion can easily arise between family members. No matter your age, if you have valuable assets and loved ones, make sure you have a Will set in place.

Which State governs my Will?

Whichever state the testator resides is the state that governs the Will. If your primary residential address is in the State of Florida, normally your Will would be governed accordingly. (Typically the state you pay personal income tax is the state that will govern your will.)

Which types of personal property can I include?

Personal property is any type of item in your possession that has value (Important: does not include cash). Personal property includes vehicles, jewelry, collectibles, furniture etc. You may choose to give all your personal property to one person or you can proportionately allocate your personal property to multiple beneficiaries.

What happens if a Beneficiary dies?

If your primary beneficiary dies before you do, you can alter and remove that deceased person from your Will, otherwise, if you have a 2nd choice recipient/beneficiary, your property will go to that person. In some states that use the Uniform Probate Code, a beneficiary must survive for at least 5 days following your death in order to inherit your property. If there is no alternate beneficiary to inherit your estate upon your death, your Will would then be subject to your 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 of your pets upon your passing.

No Will After Death (Die Intestate)

If there is no will that was recorded by the individual that has died (known as ‘intestacy’), and the estate is under the State threshold for probate proceedings, the property may be distributed through a Small Estate Affidavit.

Estate Planning Checklist

Use as a guide to ensure an individual’s estate is complete to the fullest extent by law as well as incorporate other end-of-life decisions. Power of attorney forms, for example, allow someone to choose someone else to make financial and medical decisions on their behalf if they aren’t able to do it themselves. In addition, a living will allows a person to make medical treatment requests if they should be incapacitated or decide if they would like their organs to be donated after their death.