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How To Write a Will

No one likes to think about it, but it’s best to save loved ones trouble when you pass, so get your will in writing. Be sure to cover all the bases so you only have to do it once.


  • Step 1: Detail your wishes for how you would like your body disposed of.
  • TIP: Medical instructions before death belong not in the will but another legal contract.
  • Step 2: Sign your will with two witnesses (in most states) and note the place and time. The witnesses cannot be beneficiaries. By signing along with you, you confirm that they are of sound mind.
  • FACT: James Smithson, a British scientist, left his estate “to the United States of America … to found the Smithsonian Institution," even though he never traveled to the United States and had no relatives or friends there.
  • TIP: Assets in other countries require another will, owing to inheritance and tax laws. Investigate these first.
  • Step 3: Stipulate who will inherit, what they will inherit, and how much. Disinherit certain individuals to guard against confusion, and add a section titled "bequests" to cover special properties.
  • TIP: Your will is legally binding whether or not you consult a lawyer.
  • Step 4: Declare in writing that you are of legal age and of sound mind. Add that this is your last will and testament and that you were under no pressure to make any of these decisions.
  • Step 5: Note in writing the person you wish to be your executor, or the main beneficiary of your estate. Name an alternate, just in case, but make both people aware of your intentions.
  • Step 6: Identify a legal guardian for any children, and leave specific instructions in the will regarding their raising and care, which you should discuss with the person you choose.
  • Step 7: Determine what you have and who you want it to go to when you’re gone. Draft the document clearly in writing and include your full name and address. Consult a lawyer to make sure the will accurately records your wishes.

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