How to execute a legal will

Updated November 21, 2016

When we die, we want to ensure our loved ones are taken care of. We also want to ensure our valuables and properties are dispersed to the appropriate people. A will is the legal document that ensures these wishes are carried out. The process of executing a will may vary slightly from state to state; some states allow you to hand-write a will, others require that you fill out the actual legal document. However, the process is universal.

Consider the people in your life and the valuables you own. Determine who you want to receive which property.

Write down the names and corresponding properties. In some states, you can execute a handwritten will, and in other states you must have it typed. In some states, you must fill out the legal document will, which should be available via the Internet or the clerk of the court in your county.

Designate a guardian for your children, if applicable. Also designate who will take care of your children should they be minors at the time of your death. If you are acting as a guardian for a child who is not biologically yours, you will need to appoint a successor guardian.

Designate an executor for your will. The executor will have a lot of responsibility, so choose wisely. The executor will handle everything from the reading of the will to the filing of the estate taxes.

Sign your will in the presence of a witness. In some states, the process also requires the will to be signed by a notary public. In the majority of states, a signed will in the presence of a witness is sufficient and no other proof, witnesses or documentation is needed to legally execute the will.

Things You'll Need

  • Notary public
  • Pen and paper or legal will document
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About the Author

Sarah Estlund is a freelance writer based out of Kansas City. Originally from the Hawkeye State, she received her degree in journalism from the University of Iowa. Estlund writes a dating column as well as more than 15 blogs ranging in topic from celebrity, fashion, pets, self-help and alternative medicine. She has a love of animals and shares that passion in her writing.