Write Yourself A Free & Simple Will Before It's Too Late

Only about a quarter of the adult population of North America has a will. The biggest misconception about wills is that it is drafted by lawyers for rich people with a lot of assets. This may be true to some extent but it should not hold you back from taking the time to write your own will, sign it, and keep it in a safe place just in case something happens to you. This is especially true if you have children.

The purpose of having a will is that your final wishes are made clear. The existence of a will makes it legally binding that your final wishes are carried out according to how you would like. Not only will your assets go to those you choose but your children will be raised by those you feel is best suited to take on that responsibility. Without a will the courts will apply a formula they have already set which may go completely against your true wishes.

Here is an example. Say a man just remarried, has no children, and he brought in all the assets to the marriage. During their honeymoon, him and his second wife both die from a plane crash. He is survived by his siblings parents, and his ex-wife. And she has a brother. If the man has no will (dies intestate), then where does all his assets go? Not to his parents, siblings, nor even his ex-wife. According to succession law, all his assets will transfer to this wife at the moment they both died and therefore both their assets will transfer to her next of kin, her brother. This is most likely not what he wants but this is how the law works given he does not have a will. His family could try to fight for it in court but this would make an extremely tragic event even more difficult on both families. Now imagine if the case involves a child and the courts assign guardianship to someone that is not your choice.

The reason I encourage people to take the time to write a will is because it is much simpler than you think and doesn't require a lawyer or any money to make. Just take out a pen and piece of paper and state what you want to happen in the event that you die.

Important things to include in a will are:

  • The beneficiaries: State which people you want to inherit your assets and how you want those assets divided.
  • The Executor: State who you want to be in charge of carrying out your last wishes.
  • Guardians: State who you want to be the legal guardian of your children in the event of your death. You can also state a second choice if for some reason your first choice cannot take on that responsibility.
  • And anything thing else that you think is important to you. How you want to be buried (or cremated) or whether you want your organs donated, etc.

After writing the will, sign and date it in front of two other people (witnesses) and have them sign (preferably with their address and occupation printed below) to confirm that they witnessed your signature. The witnesses should not be a spouse, beneficiary, or executor of the will. They do not need to know the contents of the will, only the fact that you signed the will yourself. You now have a fully legal will. Even if you do not have it witnessed, the will would still be legal if it could be proven in court that you signed it yourself.

It's that simple. Do not be fooled by the term "legal will". All wills are valid even if it is not drafted by a lawyer. Having one legally drafted is not completely necessary unless your situation is complex and you want to hire a professional to ensure everything is covered in your specific situation. In most cases, a simple one drafted by yourself is sufficient as long as it clearly states what you want. So if you believe that you only need a will if you have lots of money and have to pay for a lawyer, then I hope this tip will convince you to make a simple and free will for yourself. Even if it might not cover every important detail like one written by a lawyer, it will still include the most important wishes you have.

So why not take the time and hand write a will stating what you want and update it every five years or as often as you wish. Put it away where you put your important documents just in case something unexpected happens to you. Do it not only for your own benefit but for the benefit of those you leave behind. It's much better than not having one at all.

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Dated: Friday, February 5, 2010