There’s a common misperception that estate planning is only for wealthier individuals who have a bounty of property and assets. However, anyone can benefit from having an estate plan, no matter their income level or age. That’s because we all have some property and assets to pass along to loved ones, no matter how modest. Don’t forget: estates also include sentimental items and family heirlooms. If you don’t have a complicated estate, a simple will is a great place to start. In this guide, we’ll show you how to make a simple will so that you can start protecting yourself right away.
What is the Simplest Way to Make a Will?
It’s entirely possible to make a will in a simple, easy manner. Plenty of individuals drag their feet on setting up an estate plan because they think it’s going to be a strenuous project. However, thanks to online services and technology, this is no longer the case.
If you don’t have a complicated estate, there’s no need to make your estate planning a formal, expensive process. For those who only need basic coverage, a simple will could be just what you need.
A simple will, or basic will, is one option in your estate planning toolkit. It allows you to list out your assets and how you’d like for them to be distributed upon your passing. In addition, you name an Executor, and a Guardian if you have children.
What is the Purpose of a Simple Will?
The purpose of a simple will is to provide basic coverage and protection for an individual who does not have a complicated estate. By setting up a basic will, you’re creating a legally-bound document that provides instructions for how you’d like for your estate to be distributed upon your passing.
When someone passes away and they don’t have an estate plan, things can get quickly complicated. There’s no instructions for what is included in the estate, who will be inheriting what, and how much. When young children are involved, the stakes are even higher. Who will take care of them in your absence? By setting up a basic will, you and your loved ones will have better peace of mind. In the event of your passing, your appointed Executor will be able to follow your instructions and make sure that everyone you love is cared for.
Know that a simple will may not be your best option if your estate has any layers of complexity. For example, if you have a large estate, own a business, have gone through a divorce, or have a blended family, a simple will may not offer enough protection.
What Should Be Included in a Simple Will?
Part of learning how to make a simple will includes knowing what kind of information is required.
Setting up a will is the easy part. Deciding how you want to pass on your legacy is what’s hard. To help you get started, here’s an itemized list of what should be included in a simple will:
Validating Statement: First and foremost, you’ll need to state that the document in question is indeed your will, and that it includes your final wishes. Making such a statement will help the document hold up in court. It’s a smart idea to also include a statement that any prior versions are null and void. This way, the court system will know that this version is valid, and it’s not a draft.
Name your Beneficiaries: Your beneficiaries are your heirs. You should name any Beneficiaries by full name and address, and state which assets they should inherit upon your passing. When listing your assets or property, provide as many details as possible to help cut down on any confusion.
Appoint your Executor: The Executor is the person who is appointed to carry out the instructions you left in your will. This is an important role, so naturally, it should be someone that you trust. Some individuals will name a family member or best friend. Others opt to name a professional, such as an estate planning attorney, to help prevent any conflicts or manipulation.
Choose a Guardian: This step is only necessary if you have any minor children or pets that need to be loved and cared for in the event of your passing. Be sure to leave information about existing pet insurance policies, college education funds, or any other support resources that would benefit your loved ones.
Signature: A simple will won’t be valid unless it’s signed. Be prepared to provide your signature, along with the date of signature, to validate your document when it is complete.
Witnesses: You will also need two or more witnesses who watch you sign your will. This provides accountability and oversight to ensure that you were sound of mind at the time of signing, and that there was no manipulation in occurrence. They can verify in court that you signed your will out of your own free (ahem) will.
Are Simple Wills Legal?
Simple wills are indeed legal. Any type of estate planning document is legal in nature, and is designed to hold up in court. Of course, you’ll want to make sure your document is valid. It’s up to you to make sure that you’ve satisfied your state’s legal requirements. For example, several states accept wills that are handwritten, while others are not. There’s also an age requirement. Most states require that you are at least the age of 18 in order for your simple will to be considered valid and legal. Last but not least, double-check to make sure that you meet your minimum number of required witnesses.
If you’re worried about making sure that your simple will is valid and legal, know that you can work with an estate planning service. At Trust & Will, our team includes experienced estate planning attorneys who ensure that estate planning documents created on the platform are valid.
Can I Write a Simple Will Myself?
Upon learning how to make a simple will, you might be wondering if you can write one yourself. Yes, you can write a simple will yourself if you choose to do so. The first option is to write your will by hand. This type of will is called a ‘holographic’ will. It might be tempting to handwrite your will, but it’s the riskiest option. They can be difficult to prove in court, and can be contested. If you choose this option, make sure that handwritten wills are accepted in your state.
The second option is to purchase a “do-it-yourself” template. These templates will provide a basic structure of what to include in your will.
Last but not least, you can elect to set up a simple will with the help of an online estate planning service. At Trust & Will, we’ve created a secure platform through which you can create your simple will. Our services stand out because our platform is easy to use, and is a much more affordable option relative to working with an attorney. Because we already have experienced attorneys on our team, you can rest assured that you’re creating a document that will hold up in court at a fraction of the cost. If you’d like more information, visit our Simple Will guide to get started.