How Do I Write my Own Will?

Updated: Oct 12, 2021

If you love writing (blogs not included), you can write a perfectly valid Will yourself and if you do everything right, it will hold up in a Court, including in countries where an executor needs to apply for a court order. Whether you want to write your own Will or have a lawyer or will-drafting company doing it, it is your personal preference as well as up to the complexity of your wishes.

Of course, if you have a drama family structure that resembles a Netflix soap opera, a lawyer can probably provide a clearer framework towards ensuring your Will can hold up. If your family are less likely to challenge your wishes, there are online tools that you can use to write a basic Will.

Will writing is not really rocket science, but the preparation of materials and information can make you feel like you are planning a trip to Mt. Everest. Rest assured, we have compiled a DIY guide on basic Will writing.

DIY Guide on Will Writing
1. Create the initial document
2. Designate an executor
3. Appoint a guardian (optional)
4. Name the beneficiaries
5. List the assets
6. Ask eligible witnesses to sign your Will (in certain countries)
7. Store your Will in a safe place and register it

Writing of Will

Now you have opened a bottle of wine, here are a few proposed steps to begin your Will writing...

1. Create the initial document Start by titling the document “Last Will and Testament" and including your full legal name and address. In the declaration paragraph, remember to state that you are of legal age and sound mind (sipping your wine while you make life changing decisions still make you sound), that this is your last Will and testament, that it revokes all previously made wills and codicils and that you are not making this Will under duress.

At the minimum, title the document “Will” and state your full legal name. We have also shared a template under "Resources" for your reference.

2. Designate an executor In common law countries mainly (e.g. England, Australia, USA, Canada, New Zealand, etc.), it is fairly usual to appoint a person to act as your personal representative who manages and distributes the assets of your estate. While testators (people writing wills) commonly choose a friend or close family member, do consider naming your attorney or financial advisor in order to ward off any potential problem.

An executor can be one of the beneficiaries but do make sure the person you choose is honest, reliable, trustworthy and willing to act as your agent. In the event your first choice is not available, make sure you appoint an alternate (back-ups are always a good idea). Closing an estate can be a daunting task, so you might wish to compensate your executor. Gifting your high-maintenance cat doesn't really count as a form of compensation. While it may seem obvious, you should probably give your executor a heads-up to be sure that they are aware and willing to be an executor.

In civil law countries (e.g. France, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, etc.), the Court will usually authenticate your Will and appoint an administrator.

3. Appoint a guardian As the case may be, it is important to name a guardian to care for your minor or dependent children in the event you are the last surviving parent or if the surviving parent is unfit to care for them. Otherwise, the Court will appoint someone. Think child services or the ex-spouse that is an ex for a reason. This is also where you can appoint a guardian for your high-maintenance cat who drinks only sparkling water and eats smoked salmon.

When selecting a guardian, you may want to choose someone who is prepared to take on the responsibilities of raising your children until they turn 18 as well as someone who is close to you and your children. Some people like surprises but this is not one of the surprises you should be planning. Discuss this decision with both your child(ren) and the potential guardian; also consider naming an alternate guardian should something happen to your first choice.

4. Name the beneficiaries Beneficiaries are the people who stand to inherit your assets after you die. Your beneficiaries may include your spouse, children, relatives, close friends or a charitable organization, among others.

You should include the full names of your beneficiaries in your Will to avoid any doubt on their identity. If your executor does not know all the beneficiaries, you should include some information in order for the executor to locate your beneficiaries.

If you plan to disinherit a family member, make sure you name the person in your Will as well, and the reason(s) behind your decision. Note that certain countries do not allow you to disinherit your spouse, your children, etc., and that all your bequeaths will be reduced accordingly.

Whatever you do, don't name your cat (or any pet) as beneficiary! Instead, designate a person to care for your pet.

5. List the assets Now... this is probably the most time-consuming part of the entire process. You need to make a list of your assets and decide who will inherit what. Note that some assets, like assurance policies with a named beneficiary or assets held in joint tenancy, like a joint bank account and, in most cases, the family home, are not part of your estate.

You might think that it is easier to distribute your assets by percentage, but your executor might not know what are all the assets you own. The time taken to track down all the assets accompanied with the possibility of missing out on some assets (like that 'secret' bank account in Switzerland) might never be uncovered.

6. Ask witnesses to sign your will In common law countries, you are required to ask two persons to serve as witnesses after you've finished writing your Will. Your witnesses must be above the legal age and they, as well as their spouses, may not be beneficiaries in your Will.

You need to sign and date the Will in front of your witnesses and have them to sign and date the Will as well. In most countries, you don't need to have the will notarized.

7. Store your will in a safe place and register it Lastly, keep your physical Will in a safe place (not underneath your mattress) and let your executor, if any, know where it is. You may want to revisit your Will every two to three years, especially after a major life change such as a divorce, birth or death. This will also ensure that information on your assets is refreshed regularly.

You should also register your Will so that it helps your person of confidence gain access to your Will. The advantage is that your person of confidence will know how to find your Will. Only liteWill combines the advantages of storing your Will in a safe place and making sure that your Will is made available to be found.

Final Notes

For your Will to be legally binding, you must:

  • Be above the legal age;

  • In civil law countries: write, date and sign your Will;

  • In common law countries: sign your Will and have it countersigned by eligible witnesses.

Writing your Will is the very first step, and it’s an important one. But that’s not enough. In the digital age, the next step is to store your Will online. Otherwise, what happens if your person of confidence is not able to find your Will in a timely manner? liteWill is the only Will registration platform that is available globally and that provides the option to store your Will online. ‘A Will that is not online is like a Will that does not exist’.

This portion of the website is for information only. The statements and opinions are the expression of their author, not of liteWill, and have not been evaluated for accuracy, completeness or changes in the law. Information contained in this article is not a substitute for tax or legal advice.

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