Last update on: Dec 09 2020
By Katie Kao
About 74% of Americans lack a last will and testament.
However, the last will and testament, is fairly easy to prepare. A last will and testament is a legal document that describes how the estate is to be distributed according to the wishes of the testator and sometimes covers other issues.
You can create a last will and testament from start to finish. This article provides a step-to-step template for creating a last will and testament.
Step 1: Enter your information.
- Enter your name in the header.
- Enter the city or county and state in which you reside in the sentence below.
Step 2: Provide your marital status and any children.
- Declare that you are either single, married, separated, divorced or widowed. If you are married, provide the name of your spouse.
- Provide the names and birthdates of any children.
Step 3: Name and fill in the information for the executor(s).
- An executor handles everything related to the distribution of the estate according to state law and the last will and testament
- You can name one executor or more than one person to serve as co-executors.
- Fill in their names and cities or counties and states of residence.
- Select successor executors in case the initial choice(s) can’t serve.
Step 4: Divide the estate among beneficiaries and list all the information needed.
- Name of each beneficiary respectively.
- Provide an address for each beneficiary.
- Describe the beneficiary’s relationship to the testator.
- Enter the last four digits of the Social Security Number for all named beneficiaries.
- Provide the description(s) of any specific property that will be a specific bequest to a beneficiary.
- If beneficiaries are to share an inheritance, state that. For example, many wills state that the children of the testator will receive equal percentage shares of the estate.
Step 5: Appoint the guardians for any minor children and include their personal information.
- Name of first choice guardian.
- Indicate your relationship to any chosen guardians.
- Choose alternate guardians in case the first choice is unavailable.
Step 6: Review the following sections and fill in information where applicable. These sections vary based on each state.
- Omission. A brief statement regarding individuals not included in the last will and testament.
- Taxes. The section directs the executor to pay any taxes imposed upon the estate.
- Due Diligence. This states that the executor will be responsible for any due diligence.
- Fiduciary Duties or Discretionary Powers of Personal Representative. This gives the executor the authority to deal with the affairs of the estate.
- Guardian Ad Litem. The section covers any cases in which minor children need a representative for contested court proceedings.
- Simultaneous Death. This addresses events in which the testator and his or her spouse die within the same time frame.
- Predeceased Beneficiaries. This part handles situations in which any beneficiaries die close to the date of the testator’s death or die before the distribution of estate.
- Contesting Beneficiary. This section states that if any beneficiaries listed in the last will and testament contest or attack the document, they won’t receive any bequests from the estate, similar to a predeceased beneficiary.
- Pet Guardian. This appoints a guardian for any pets left behind by the testator.
Step 7: Enter the state that governs the last will and testament. Then, sign and date the last will and testament as the testator.
- The witnesses should be present when the testator officially signs the last will and testament.
Step 8: Enter the information of the witnesses and get their signatures.
- The signatures must be dated.
Step 9: Include the sections of Affidavit of Testament and Notary Public, if necessary.
Valuable contributions to this summary of “Last Will and Testament Template” were made by Bob Carlson, editor of the Retirement Watch financial advisory service and chairman of the Board of Trustees of Virginia’s Fairfax County Employees’ Retirement System with more than $4 billion in assets.
Katie Kao is an editorial intern with Eagle Financial Publications.