How to Write Your Will: Step By-Step Guide

Your will is the legally-binding written document that allows you to decide what happens to your money, property, and possessions after your death.

One of the commonest reasons why people shy away from writing their will is that they feel completely as sea as to how to go about it. But the truth is, writing your will might be much easier and more affordable than you think. And unless you're in a complicated family or business situation, you can write your will on your own. Here are the steps to follow when writing your will.

1. Decide how you'll write your will

While you have the option of hiring an attorney to write your will, it's always easier and much cheaper to do it yourself, especially if there's nothing complicated about your family or business situations. To write your will, you can easily pick up your pen and notebook—and start scribbling away. After you're done with the draft, edit and put everything in print. But a better and more professional DIY option is to use an online automated will creation service, such as SimpleWills.net.

Aside that they allow you to craft a perfect-looking will within a very short period, online will writing services provide helpful tips that will help you avoid common pitfalls that usually come with writing a will on your own.

2. Decide the executor of your will

It goes without saying, but you need to choose someone who will be in charge of implementing the wishes in your will. Whether it will be well executed or not hinges on whom you choose as the executor, so you need to choose carefully. To avoid disputes or grudges among family members, it's highly recommended that you choose a neutral party such as a seasoned attorney, a bank, or a trusted friend. Bear in mind, however, that a fee will be involved if you hire an attorney or bank to execute your will. Nonetheless, that remains a far better option than choosing a family member because even a trusted or smart family member can make serious mistakes.

3. List out all everythingyou have

Your will must contain a list of everything that makes up your wealth, including what you solely own and what you jointly own with other people. The list will include the cash you have in your bank accounts, your businesses, as well as belongings such as houses, cars, furniture, collectables, stocks and shares, life insurance policies, and other assets. Be sure to include the details of how each of your belongings can be assessed. This is particularly necessary for remotely located assets such as land, houses, and other property you have acquired in another state or country.

4. List out what you owe and what you’re owed

Since the net value of your estate is what is left after your total liabilities have been deducted from your total assets, it's more than important to list out everything you owe. These include mortgage (outstanding balance), credit card debts, bank loans, overdrafts, and other debts. Similarly, you should also make a list of any money owed to you by other people. State how much you're owed, the exact date you handed over the money to the debtor (with evidence to prove this), and details of how the debtor can be reached at any time.

5. Select your beneficiaries

The main purpose of your will is to share your estate among your beneficiaries after you’ve passed away. Never assume that your beneficiaries are known; list them out clearly. Your beneficiaries will no doubt include your family members as well as any outsider or charity that you would like to share part of your wealth with. If you decide to exclude a family member for any reason, state clearly that the exclusion was deliberate, so it won't come across as an erroneous omission.

6. State how you want your estate to be distributed

After listing out your beneficiaries and everything that make up your estate, you need to clearly state what you want to be given to each beneficiary. To avoid confusion and disputes, mention the full name of each beneficiary and clearly define what should be given to them. For example if you want your Swatch wristwatch to go to your first son or you want your wedding gown handed over to your last daughter, put that down. Do the same for every item on your list of possessions.

7. Select guardians for your children and managers for your assets

Your will isn't complete without clear statements about the welfare of your children after you're gone. Such statements are particularly important if your children are minors. Choose a guardian from among your family members, preferably someone who really cares about your children and they enjoy being with. Similarly, you need to appoint those who will carry on with the management of your business, investments, and other assets. Be sure to appoint a trusted family member who has the required experience and know-how.

8. Include other special wishes

If there are some special wishes that you would like to be implemented after you're gone, such as donating your cornea to patients who might need them, put them down in your will. Be sure to include enough information about each wish that will help the executor implement it easily.

9. Decide those who will sign the will

After getting your will printed, you need witnesses who will sign it. In many parts of the world, the law forbids any of your beneficiaries from signing as witnesses. If this holds in your location, you need to think of trusted outsiders such as your close friends who are likely to be around when you're not. Bear in mind that each of your witnesses must be above 18 years of age.

10. Put everything together

After preparing all the contents of your will, start putting everything together in a single piece. Upon completion of the first draft, review it to ensure that all the details therein are correct. Then edit to eliminate all grammar, spelling, punctuation, and other errors. Once you've done all that, you can proceed to print your will. The whole task would be much easier if you use an online will writing website, since most of them will provide you with a questionnaire that you will answer. By answering that questionnaire, you would have provided all the details required in your will.

And that's all!

With all the above steps taken, you would have successfully written your will. After printing out copies of it, get your witnesses to append their signatures. Then have a seasoned attorney check it for any flaws of legal concern. And finally keep it in a safe place—somewhere your family can easily get it when the time is right.