Create Your Last Will and Testament

Enter the name and personal information of the person the Last Will is for:

(e.g. Dallas)
Select the state where you live and have a permanent residence.
If you are widowed or divorced then you are considered to be single for the purpose of a Last Will.
Spouse's Information
Common Questions

Benefits of a Last WillA Last Will allows you to:
  • Decide who will get your property after your death;
  • Choose how your property will be divided among your various beneficiaries;
  • Give specific items of property to specific people;
  • Appoint someone you trust to administer your estate; and
  • Appoint a guardian for your minor children.
If you die without a Will, your property will be distributed by a court-appointed administrator according to statutory plans for "intestate succession." Your property will be divided among your surviving spouse, children, and possibly other relatives in whatever manner the law of your jurisdiction specifies. You will not have a chance to give property to non-relatives or to exclude relatives. Additionally, if you have no relatives, your property will go to the state rather than to a friend or charity of your choice.
Keeping my Will up to dateYou should review your Will from time to time to ensure that it still meets your needs and that your property will be distributed according to your wishes. You should consider writing a new Will on the following events:
  • You get married or divorced (a change in marital status may void your old Will);
  • You are unmarried, but have a new partner;
  • The amount of money and property you own significantly changes;
  • You move to another state (not all states recognize out-of-state Wills as valid);
  • Your executor or a significant beneficiary in your Will dies;
  • There is a birth or adoption of a child in your family;
  • You change your mind about the provisions in your Will.
Requirements for making a Last WillIn [Select your state.], Select your state to see your specific requirements.
Generally any person of legal age and sound mind may make a Last Will.
Testator and Testatrix DefinitionsThe testator (male) or testatrix (female) is the person who makes a Last Will for the purpose of disposing of their property after death.Importance of my home StateLaws vary from state to state. It is important that your Last Will and Testament meets the requirements of your home state.

Your signing jurisdiction is assumed to be your home state.

Personal Representative/Executor

Executor Information

A spouse may be a good choice for executor as long as your spouse is experienced in making financial decisions regarding money and property (personal property as well as real estate) and as long as your spouse will not be overwhelmed by the situation overall.
Common Questions

Executor descriptionThe executor is the person you chose to administer your estate.Executor responsibilitiesAn executor or personal representative is responsible for collecting the assets of the estate, paying any debts of the estate, paying state and federal taxes, and then distributing the assets of the estate in accordance with the directions of the Will.Selecting an ExecutorAdministering the estate can be complex, time-consuming and stressful. Ensure you select someone you trust, who will be able to handle your financial matters prudently. Your executor does not need to have any legal expertise. An executor can always hire a lawyer should the need arise. Many people select their spouse or an adult child to be their executor. Also, people often choose an individual who will be receiving a substantial amount of property to be their executor. In this way, the executor will want to ensure that the property is distributed properly.

Usually you can choose anyone to act as executor except a minor or a convicted felon. Additionally, some jurisdictions place restrictions on non-resident executors (for example, some states specify that all non-resident executors must be related to you).
Executor also a BeneficiaryYes, your executor can also be a beneficiary (receive a gift) in your Will.

Alternate Personal Representative/Executor

Common Questions

Role of an Alternate ExecutorThe Alternate Executor will assume ALL responsibility for administering your estate if the Executor that you had selected is unable or unwilling to act or continue to act.


Note: Stepchildren are not your natural heirs unless you have legally adopted them. They are not included if you leave property to "all my children". If you want to leave something to your stepchildren, you must name them as beneficiaries in your Will.

Note: You must list ALL children. Any child not specifically named in your Will may have the right to claim against your Will as if no Will had been created.
Common Questions

Step-ChildrenDo not list stepchildren unless you have legally adopted them. If you want to leave something to a stepchild who is not your legal child, you can do that in the "Specific Gifts" or "Residue of Estate" sections.


Common Questions

Trustee DefinitionThe trustee is the person with the authority and responsibility to manage property on behalf your minor beneficiaries until they are legally capable of managing their own affairs.Selecting a TrusteePeople usually choose the same person for trustee as they chose for executor, but you can choose a different person if you want.

If your executor does not survive you then your alternate executor will become the trustee for your minor beneficiaries.

Specific Gifts

Common Questions

Distributing my EstateDivide up your estate in two steps:

First: Assign specific gifts to specific people. For example you might give a classic car to a favorite nephew.

Second: What is left after you have provided specific gifts is called the remainder or residue of your estate. The residue of your estate will be divided among other people you choose. Note: A beneficiary may receive a specific gift and also share in the residue of your estate.
Specific Gift definitionA specific gift is just what it sounds like. It is a gift of a specific item of property or sum of money to a named beneficiary. For example:

  • I give my diamond engagement ring to my oldest daughter, Sally Jones.
  • I give $5000.00 to my college room-mate, James Timothy Smith.

Everything that is not given away as a specific gift forms the residue of the estate.

Make sure you describe the gift well enough that anyone reading your Will would recognize what you mean. Clearly identify the beneficiary.
"Residue of the Estate" definitionThe "residue" of your estate is everything that is left over after your debts are paid and the specific gifts have been given.Example: Specific Gifts and ResidueExample:
After your executor pays your debts, your list of remaining assets might include the following:

- 1968 classic car
- Motorboat
- House including furnishings
- Cottage in the country
- Stocks and bonds

Specific gift: You could designate your house including furnishings as a specific gift to your spouse and your 1968 classic car as a specific gift to your favorite nephew. If you do not wish to make any other specific gifts then the residue of your estate would consist of your motorboat, your cottage in the country, and your stock and bond holdings.

Residue of your estate: The residue of your estate includes all remaining assets not already given as specific gifts. If you have named more than one beneficiary for the residue of your estate then your executor may have to sell your remaining assets (in this example, your motorboat, your cottage in the country, and your stock and bond holdings) and divide the cash equally among your remaining beneficiaries according to the proportions you have indicated.
Giving to a charitable organizationYes, you can make a gift to a charitable organization. To make a specific gift to a charity, ensure that you provide the full name of the charity and for “Beneficiary’s Gender” select “Corporate”. Under “Beneficiary Address” provide the full address of the charity’s main office. Also, it is a good idea to provide an alternative beneficiary to a charitable gift in case the charity folds or no longer exists at the time of your death.What can't be given awaySome things cannot be given as gifts in a Last Will including:

1) Your spouse's property.
2) The proceeds of a life insurance policy, retirement fund, or annuity where a beneficiary is already named.
3) Jointly held property where another party has a right of survivorship.

Residue of Estate

What do you want to happen to the residue of your estate?

Common Questions

"Residue of the Estate" definitionThe "residue" of your estate is everything that is left over after your debts are paid and the specific gifts have been given.

Wipeout Clause

Common Questions

Wipeout Clause definitionA wipeout clause lets you describe how you want to distribute your estate in the event that all of your named Beneficiaries die before you. Otherwise the government will decide how to distribute your estate.If none of your named beneficiaries or alternates survive you, then the law may treat the remainder of your estate as if you had died without leaving a Last Will.

If it is possible that all of your immediate family (including your children and grandchildren) could predecease you or die at the same time as you in a common accident, then it is prudent to include a wipeout clause. An unmarried person, married without children or with young children are the most common situations where a wipeout clause is used.
Role of a Wipeout ClauseIf none of your named beneficiaries or alternates survive you, then the law may treat the remainder of your estate as if you had died without leaving a Last Will. In cases where a person dies without leaving a Last Will, the law has a formula to divide assets among parents, siblings and extended family.

If it is possible that all of your immediate family (including your children and grandchildren) could predecease you or die at the same time as you in a common accident, then it is prudent to include a wipeout clause.

Forgive Debts

Common Questions

How forgiving a debt worksWhere the Testator is owed money at the time of death, it would be the responsibility of the executor to collect all monies owed and add this to the assets of the estate. A Testator could also elect to forgive some outstanding debts. This has a similar effect to granting a specific gift.

Remember that the person who owes the debt to the estate would have to declare the forgiven portion of the debt as taxable income (Discharge of Indebtedness Income) which would be taxable under Section 61 of the Internal Revenue Code.

Pet Guardian

Common Questions

Pet Guardian definitionA Pet Guardian is someone who will look after your pets after you have passed away.

Additional Clauses

- No additional instructions are necessary for most people -

Do not use different names or words to refer to the same person or thing. This can cause confusion and ambiguity by appearing to introduce new or different people or items.

Certain words were capitalized and defined already in this document. Use the same predefined terms in your additional clauses.

Do not use pronouns such as: they, us, we, our, you, or me. Pronouns may be ambiguous and can cause confusion. e.g.:
  • Wrong: I leave my car and household furnishings to her.
  • Correct: I leave my car and household furnishings to my brother William Kenneth Smith.
Plain English means language that is simple and conveys ideas with the greatest possible clarity and avoids using legalese.

Legalistic StylePlain English
at the present time now
due to the fact that because; since
during such time aswhile
for the duration ofduring
inasmuch asbecause; since
in the event thatif
notwithstanding the fact that although; even if
prior to before
pursuant to under; in accordance with
subsequent toafter
that certaina
with reference toabout

Do not abbreviate words.

Use numerals, not words, to denote amounts.

Do not repeat or contradict what has already been stated.

Only put one paragraph per additional clause.

Order your additional clauses in a logical sequence.

Make sure your meaning is clear.

Spell-check your clause.
It is not a good idea to include funeral arrangements in your Last Will. Anything you write in your Last Will concerning funeral arrangements is not binding, and there is a good possibility no one will look at your Will until after your funeral. If you do put directions for your funeral in your Will, make sure your executor and family members who will be arranging your funeral know that you have done so. You can use the Additional Clauses section to specify your funeral instructions.

Sign and Witness

(e.g. Dallas)

In [Select your state.], the signing of a Last Will must be witnessed by at least two (2) or more competent individuals.

Common Questions

Requirements for Witnesses
Select your state to see your specific requirements.
Generally, a witness must understand what they are signing and must be competent to testify in court.

Number of witnesses requiredSelect your state to see your specific requirements.

Additional Instructions


Print and review the following documents:

Instructions on Executing Your Last Will.
Common Questions

Important information about witnessesSelect your state to see your specific requirements.

Signing "in the presence of" means the witnesses actually watch the you sign. The Testator and the witnesses should initial the bottom right hand corner of each page of the Last Will (except the last page which is signed by everyone).

Witnesses should NOT be individuals who will be receiving gifts in the Will or the spouses of individuals receiving gifts in the Will.
Beneficiaries as witnessesA beneficiary should not be a witness to your Last Will, nor should the spouse of a beneficiary be a witness to your Last Will. Where a witness will receive a gift under the Last Will, this creates a presumption that the gift was provided under duress.

Generally, a Last Will is not invalid simply because a witness is a beneficiary to the Will. BUT, in many states the amount of a gift to a witness may be reduced to what the witness would have received if the Testator had died intestate.
Executor(s) as witnessesYes, but only if the Executor is not a beneficiary in your Will. "Self-proving Will" definitionA Self-proving Will includes an Affidavit of Execution which attests to the fact that your Will has been properly executed. Normally a witness will be required to testify in probate court that the Last Will was executed properly. Alternatively, this requirement may be satisfied by having each witness swear an oath and sign an Affidavit of Execution in front of a notary. This removes the requirement of having one of your witnesses go to court to verify proper execution. If available in your state, the required form will be included with your Last Will.Filing my Last WillYou do not have to file your Will with any court system or government body. However, you should store your Will in a safe place where your executor or personal representative will be able to locate it.
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