A will is a legal document that transfers what you own to your beneficiaries upon your death. It also names an executor to carry out the terms of your will and a guardian for your minor children, if you have any.
Your signature and those of two witnesses make your will authentic. Witnesses don't have to know what the will says, but they must watch you sign it and you must watch them witness it.
Hand-written wills—called holographs—are legal in about half the states, but most wills are typed and follow a standard format.
Your will should contain several key points in order to be valid. The following list is a start. Check with a local estate attorney for a more comprehensive list:
You should make a will as soon as you have any real assets, or get married, and certainly by the time you have children.
Without a will, you die intestate. The law of your state then determines what happens to your estate and your minor children. This process, called administration, is governed by the probate court and is notoriously slow, often expensive and subject to some surprising state laws.
A living will expresses your wishes about being kept alive if you're terminally ill or seriously injured.
Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, or investment advice. Although the information has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable, please note that individual situations can vary therefore, the information should be relied upon when coordinated with individual professional advice.