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Do you have a large estate or an interest in more advanced estate planning tools like trusts?

If your estate equals or exceeds a value of $1 million, or needs special estate planning tools like trusts, it may be best to talk with an attorney.
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Our directory of experienced, local attorneys can help you with circumstances such as:
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  • Establishing and maintaining trusts
  • …and any other concerns you have!
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Are you looking to have your estate planning basics covered?

Our Estate Planning Package includes a Last Will & Testament, Health Care Directive & Living Will, and Financial Power of Attorney to cover all of your basic estate planning needs.
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Do you have minor children?

If you have minor children, you will want to name a guardian for them.
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Do you have pets?

If you have a pet or pets, you will want to name someone to care for them.
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Do you want to leave gifts to people or a charity?

If you want to give items or money to people or charities, you will want to make what are known as “specific gifts.”
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Do you own a business?

If you own a business or a share of a business, you will want to plan for succession of ownership.
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Do you want to decide how your property is distributed when you pass away?

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Do you want someone to handle your health care decisions if you are unable?

In case you are incapacitated, you will want to list your health care preferences and name someone to handle your health care decisions.
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Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

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Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

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Do you want someone to handle your health care decisions if you are unable?

In case you are incapacitated, you will want to list your health care preferences and name someone to handle your health care decisions.
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Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

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Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

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Do you want to specify someone who can make financial decisions for you if you are unavailable or incapacitated?

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Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

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Thank you for taking our quiz!
Your answers suggest you might benefit from:

Speaking with
a FindLaw Attorney

Our directory of experienced, local attorneys can help you with circumstances such as:
What’s included:
  • Being part of a blended family
  • Caring for children with special needs
  • Establishing and maintaining trusts
  • …and any other concerns you have!
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All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Estate Planning Package

For One Person

$135
What’s included:
  • Last will and testament
  • Health care directive & living will
  • Financial power of attorney
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • A comprehensive plan — for less
  • Free changes and revisions for one full year after purchase
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All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Financial Power of Attorney

For One Person

$39
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
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All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Health Care Directive & Living Will

For One Person

$39
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your health care directive and living will before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
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All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament

For One Person

$79
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a last will and testament that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your will for a full year after purchase
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All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Estate Planning Package

For Two People

$255
What’s included:
  • Two wills, health care directives & living wills, and financial powers of attorney
  • Two free HIPAA release forms
  • You and your loved one create your own estate plans tailored to your individual needs
  • Attorney-approved documents customized to your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions for one full year after purchase
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All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Financial Power of Attorney

For Two People

$78
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create an attorney-approved power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Health Care Directive & Living Will

For Two People

$78
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy.
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create an attorney-approved document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament

For Two People

$149
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create two wills customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your wills for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Health Care Directive & Living Will + Financial Power of Attorney

For One Person

$78
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your health care directive and living will before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
  • Create your state-specific documents before you buy
  • Create a power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament + Financial Power of Attorney

For One Person

$118
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a last will and testament that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your will for a full year after purchase
  • Create your state-specific documents before you buy
  • Create a power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament + Health Care Directive & Living Will

For One Person

$118
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a last will and testament that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your will for a full year after purchase
  • Create your health care directive and living will before you buy
  • Create a document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Health Care Directive & Living Will + Financial Power of Attorney

For Two People

$156
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy.
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create an attorney-approved document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy
  • Create an attorney-approved power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament + Financial Power of Attorney

For Two People

$227
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create two wills customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your wills for a full year after purchase
  • Create an attorney-approved power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament + Health Care Directive & Living Will

For Two People

$227
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create two wills customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your wills for a full year after purchase
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy.
  • Create an attorney-approved document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase

Making a Will

Your will, sometimes referred to as your “last will and testament,” is the cornerstone of your estate plan. It is an important document that expresses your final wishes as to how your assets will be distributed and your responsibilities satisfied when you die.

Table of Contents

Making a Will Basics

The person who makes a will is legally known as a “testator.” The testator can give instructions on how their property should be distributed and to whom. They may also name a guardian to care for their minor children and other dependents in the event of an untimely death.

The process of creating and carrying out a will can generate many questions. What kind of instructions may be included? Who carries them out? What makes a will valid? What kind of property can be distributed and how? This section provides some answers to common questions.

Choosing a Personal Representative

One of the most important people addressed in a will is the personal representative (in some places they are called “executors”. Once the testator dies and the will becomes active, the personal representative is entrusted with carrying out the testator’s instructions. Typically, they also manage the estate’s day-to-day affairs, including making sure the estate’s bills are paid, until it is wrapped up.

This is a position of great trust and responsibility. Therefore, your personal representative should be chosen carefully to ensure their dependability and competence. Further, the personal representative should ideally be someone that your family members and heirs can work with. This helps avoid unnecessary conflict.

Note, that custody of the original will can be very important in settling disputes. In particular, it is important that the personal representative have access to the document. This can be ensured by storing the original will in a safe place (e.g., with the drafting attorney or in a safe deposit box).

Distributing Assets and Other Property

When we think of wills, the distribution of a person’s assets and other property at death is typically the first thing that springs to mind. The distribution of things like bank accounts, retirement accounts, credit cards, real estate, personal property, and investments is certainly an important component of a will. Failure to provide instructions in a will means that, as a default, these things will be divided according to state laws of “intestate succession.”

The rules governing your will are sometimes not as straightforward as you may think. As you begin to plan your will, remember that some forms of property cannot be included. For example, you cannot distribute money that’s held in a joint account. Similarly, life insurance benefits generally cannot be included in a will, as these payments automatically go to the insurance policy’s named beneficiary.

Naming a Guardian for Minor Children

A very important benefit of creating a will is the ability to name a legal guardian to care for your minor children and other dependents in the event of your death. By naming a trusted guardian for your children, you will help ensure that they are well cared for in a worst-case scenario.

What Makes a Valid Will?

In general, the requirements for a “valid” will are meant to ensure that you are not being tricked or coerced into signing the final document. In other words, they are meant to ensure that the formal legal document is a true reflection of your own will, hence the name.

There are two common safeguards to ensure this. First, you must be of “sound mind” when you create and sign your will. Second, at least two people are required to serve as witnesses when you sign your will.

Additional requirements vary depending on where you are, so it’s best to speak with an estate planning attorney if you have specific questions about your state’s procedures and requirements for wills. For example, a notary may serve as an additional safeguard, though notarization is not required in most jurisdictions.

If your will violates a law — such as a law that requires you to name your children as heirs — portions of your will may be disregarded. In some cases, a violation may invalidate the entire document.

Need Help Drafting Your Will?

Wills are one of the most iconic documents associated with lawyers. As a result, many people are surprised that they can create a will online — and even many accompanying estate planning documents — without the aid of an attorney.

If your estate is relatively simple, you may bypass a visit to a law firm and instead draft your own will online using our customizable templates. Drafting a simple will using our do-it-yourself estate planning tools can save you both time and money.

However, if you have questions, or if your estate is more complex, you may still want to seek legal advice from an estate planning lawyer.

Estate planning solutions to fit your needs.

Written by:

FindLaw Staff

Contributing Author

Ally_Marshall_image

Reviewed by:

Ally Marshall, Esq.

Managing Editor