Last Will and Testament Made Simple: A Step-by-Step Guide 
It’s one of the last things anybody wants to talk about but also one of the most important things we can do for our loved ones – yes, we’re talking about a last will and testament.
Unfortunately, a recent poll by Caring.com shows over 60% of American adults don’t have a will.
A similar poll by the Angus Reid Institute and reported at BNN Bloomberg says 51% of Canadians don’t have a will. The Canadian poll went on to say that of those who do have a will, only 25 percent said the document is up to date.
In other words, a last will and testament is very clearly something most adults don’t like to deal with but the truth is taking just a few minutes out of your life to complete a will is something that can pay huge dividends in return.
In this short guide, we are going to talk about the importance of having a last will and testament, if you need to have a lawyer to make a will, how to avoid paying exorbitant legal fees to get a will and much, much more.
Let’s get started by taking a look at the history of the will.
The History of the Will
As you might expect, the history of the will varies by country. Greece did a lot to introduce the concept of the last will and testament but even in that country inheritance practices were different in different areas.
While some states allowed men the privilege of deciding how their estates would be disbursed upon their death, others states denied that privilege and had the government decide.
Ancient Rome took the practice of writing a last will and testament and made it a common practice. In fact, Rome’s understanding of the will ended up becoming the foundation of inheritance law in many European countries.
In the US, last will and testaments have also become an important part of inheritance law but it is important to note that “full liberty of disposition” is not universal in all states. For instance, some states grant at least half of a deceased’s estate to their spouse despite what the will may say. Also, in many states children can’t be omitted from a will without good cause.
What about registering wills to make them legal? Here is what Wikipedia has to say about that: “In modern U.S. law, wills are not required to be registered prior to death in most states, but are registered and put in the public record after the person making the will dies and the estate is probated. However, it is often still a good idea to have the signing and witnessing of a will notarized, to reduce the risk of disputes over the will's validity after death.”
So Who Needs a Last Will and Testament?
Basically, the rule of thumb is if you own property or have money or other assets that you want to pass on after your death, you need a last will and testament.
A will, properly filled out and notarized (if needed), will serve as your assurance that your wishes will be carried out after your passing.
The bottom line is there really is no better way to ensure your family is taken care of after your passing than by making your own will.
Let’s look at a couple of examples involving the lack of a will and the presence of a simple last will and testament:
Tom is a wealthy musician who dies unexpectedly in his 50s of a heart attack. He owns multiple estates, has large bank and retirement account balances and, unfortunately, does not have a last will and testament.
His heirs, which include a wife and two daughters, will have to spend years navigating court proceedings before they are granted any of their father’s estate.
On the other hand, David has a last will and testament when he is unexpectedly killed in an auto accident. That will sets out clearly how he wants his estate settled and those wishes are adhered to by the executor he identifies in his will, which is his wife. His estate is settled promptly and his loved ones do not have to go through any added stress immediately after his passing.
Here’s a real-life example of how not having a last will and testament can go terribly wrong:
The estate of a deceased man inherited $1 million from a wrongful death lawsuit. However, that man did not have a will – as a result his father, who had never been a part of his life, stood to inherit the entire estate over the man’s close relatives and friends.
The simple truth is taking the time to complete a last will and testament is one of the best things you can do for your loved ones. You will save them stress and uncertainty and will make things much easier for them at a very difficult time in their lives.
To put it another way, making a last will and testament is “the right thing to do.”
So Why Don’t More People Have a Last Will and Testament?
The biggest reason is people simply don’t like to think about their own demise.
Younger adults don’t think anything bad is going to happen to them and thus creating a will is something to put off until they are older.
Unfortunately, as they age these adults find it even more difficult to create a will because it would force them to make some difficult decisions that they don’t want to have to make.
So making a will is ignored, often until it is too late. At that point, when you die without a will, the state basically makes one for you. It determines where your property goes instead of you.
If you want a say in the distribution of your property … if you don’t want the government to determine it … you need to write a will.
What Are the Benefits of a Last Will and Testament?
First and foremost, having a will ensures that you, and not the state you live in, will determine who your property is disbursed to upon your death.
Secondly, creating a last will and testament allows you to “set your affairs in order.” For instance, you can forgive debts if you want to, you can name guardians for your children, you can select an executor to carry out your wishes and much more.
Here are 10 benefits of writing a last will and testament:
- You decide how your estate will be distributed.
- You decide who will take care of your minor children.
- You avoid a lengthy probate process.
- You minimize estate taxes.
- You decide who will wind up the affairs of your estate.
- You can disinherit individuals who would otherwise stand to inherit.
- You can make gifts and donations.
- You can avoid greater legal challenges. If you die without a will, part or all of your estate may pass to someone you did not intend.
- You can change your mind about how your property is distributed if your life circumstances change.
- You are prepared in the unfortunate event something bad happens. Remember, tomorrow is not promised to anyone!
What Happens if I Don’t Have a Will?
Your estate and your loved ones are at the mercy of your state’s laws. As we described above, leaving it up to a local law can lead to some unfortunate results.
Someone you are not that close to could end up with your property while others that you are close to get nothing.
And even if your loved ones get along now, a contentious dispute over your estate could drive them apart and create rifts that last generations.
You don’t want to be responsible for that type of situation do you? That’s why getting a last will and testament can be so important.
Remember, when pop star Prince died in 2016? He died without a will and according to an article at Forbes his heirs still haven’t received a cent from his over $200 million estate.
Look at what the article says: “ … Prince not only died without having an estate plan in place, he hadn't even created a Will. That makes the process of settling his estate much more complicated; for example, the executor of his estate can’t divide the money among his six surviving siblings until the IRS and the executor agree on the value of the estate when Prince died.
But that doesn't mean some people aren't getting paid. While public filings don’t disclose how much the estate has paid the IRS and state of Minnesota to date, the executor and its lawyers have already collected approximately $5.9 million in fees and expenses. And they've requested an additional $2.9 million in fees and expenses.
And that doesn't include fees for other lawyers, consultants, advisors, etc. Sound unfair? Possibly so, but that's what can happen when you die without a valid will. When you die intestate (without a will) a probate court takes over the handling of your estate. The probate court appoints a person or firm to handle any claims made against the estate, pay off all creditors, and distribute whatever assets remain under the laws of that state.”
This is the kind of situation you want to avoid – and now it is easier to avoid than ever before thanks to services available online that allow you to create a legally valid will from the comfort of home.
Do I Need to Hire an Expensive Lawyer to Make a Last Will and Testament?
No you do not. If you’ve been avoiding creating a will because you don’t want to pay expensive legal fees or you don’t have the time to go to a lawyer’s office – here’s some good news for you:
Thanks to the 24/7 convenience of the Internet you can now download a will to ensure your estate and loved ones are protected.
Here’s how to make a last will and testament:
You go to our sister site NationalWillKit.com and click on the last will and testament link to download the document.
When finished you will have a will that is every bit as legal as a document prepared by a lawyer.
In other words, the "no money, no time" excuse for getting a last will and testament “doesn’t hold water anymore.” Now thanks to the convenience of the Internet you can get a will in just minutes and for a price that you can afford.
The place to learn much more about wills is www.digitalwealthmedia.
What Type of Information Do I Need to Have to Make a Will Online?
To complete your last will and testament online you will need to have the following information:
- Property owned
- Bank accounts – checking and savings
- Retirement accounts
- Investment accounts
- Specific possessions you want to pass on – like antiques
Before you start filling out the form you should also consider all the following:
- What property you want to pass on?
- Who you want to pass the property on to?
- Who you want to be the executor of your will?
- If you have children, who you want to be their guardian?
Here are few tips to consider when choosing an executor:
- Select someone who is trustworthy and a good communicator
- Select someone who is willing to do the job
- Select someone whom you respect and, if possible, other loved ones respect as well
Is There Anything Else to Consider When Creating a Last Will and Testament?
Yes, you should also take this time to address a living will.
How do you make a living will without a lawyer? Just download the Living Will TheLivingWillKit.com.
Here’s more about the living will – the living will states your wishes in the event of an individual health crisis – such as you don’t want to be hooked up to machinery to feed you or help you breathe.
The living will appoints a specific individual to make medical decisions for you if you are not capable of doing so for yourself.
Experts say that everyone over the age of 18 should have a living will. Currently in the US and Canada, 83% of those over 72 have a power of attorney in place but only 41 percent of Millennials do.
Why 18? Because at that age a child’s parents are legally cut off from making some important health care decisions for them.
For example, there have been cases where a child who was away at college or traveling overseas was injured and the hospital where they were being treated would not even release information about their condition to their parents because a power of attorney had not been instituted.
While it can be uncomfortable to do, creating a last will and testament is a necessity that practically all adults need to accomplish.
The whole process can take minutes instead of hours or days and it can cost much less than hiring a lawyer.
Estate planning and will creation no longer have to be difficult, expensive and time consuming. Thanks to the Internet, you can write your own will.
And, maybe most importantly, it will give you peace of mind that your loved ones are taken care of and won’t have to go through stressful court proceedings or fight with other loved ones over their inheritance.
Recap: Most Frequently Asked Questions About a Last Will and Testament
What exactly is in a will and last testament?
To put it simply, your will is going to contain your wishes for how your property should be distributed upon your death. Your property could refer to actual property, such as your current residence and land owned; cash; investments; retirement account balances; possessions like automobiles and antiques; and anything else you want to pass on to a loved one.
Do you have to go to a lawyer to make a will?
All you have to do is gather some basic information, complete the will form at digitalwealthmedia.com and you will have a legal will. You’ll gain peace of mind and your loved ones will gain protection.
What information should be included in a last will and testament?
Your will should include all of the property that you want to pass on including: physical property; bank account and retirement account balances; physical possession, such as automobiles, furniture and antiques; investments and more. In addition to listing the property you want to pass on your will should also indicate who each item should be passed on to. In addition to that, you will should name an executor and also indicate any other last wishes that you may have.
Can you write your own will?
Yes, in fact it is easier than ever before to do thanks to Digital Wealth Media Inc. Just follow the directions and you can write your own will and ensure proper distribution of your personal assets after your passing.