How do I Write a Last Will & Testament?

What is a Last Will & Testament?

A Last Will & Testament is a written statement that explains how you want your belongings to be distributed to loved ones or charitable organizations after your death.

How do I write a Last Will & Testament?

A good start is to simply type up which items you wish to be given and who you want to receive them. Be sure to clearly state that this document is your Last Will & Testament. Note that a Last Will & Testament must be written with a sound mind, and is considered invalid if that is not the case. In most states, you must be 18 years of age or older for the document to be considered legal. You must also name an executor, who will make sure your Last Will & Testament is carried out properly.

If you don't have a Last Will & Testament when you die, then your property will be handled by a probate court, and may be distributed differently than you would prefer. It’s a good idea to get legal consultation to be able to understand the laws of your state, such as community property laws, which transfer half of your assets to your surviving spouse, no matter what percentage you specify in your Last Will & Testament, but it isn’t necessarily required in order for your Last Will & Testament to be legally recognized.

The Last Will & Testament is not to be confused with a Living Will. Click here to learn more about the difference between these two documents—a Last Will & Testament versus a Living Will. For a Living Will, it is recommended to consult with a medical professional who can guide you through the difficult medical decisions covered in a Living Will.

For more detailed information on wills, see the US government’s personal finance page on writing a will or the AARP’s tips on this topic.

Note: This page is for general information purposes. We recommend you seek the advice of an attorney for legal matters.