A Will - often referred to as a Last Will or Will and Testament - is one of the most important legal documents in an individual's lifetime. A Will allows a person to control what happens to their property after their passing away by designating beneficiaries that will receive all or parts of their possessions (referred to as the "Estate").
Fillable free Will forms and templates organized by type and state are available for download and digital filing through the links below.
What Is a Will?
A Will is a legal document that regulates who your property will go to after you pass away. It commonly includes a set of instructions on your preferences concerning medical treatment at the end of your life and names an executor - the person who will be tasked with ensuring that those instructions are complied with.
The document may be used in a number of different situations: if you need to leave a specific gift for a certain person, want to clear up a misunderstanding regarding the sharing of your Estate, or wish to designate a guardian for your children or pets.
What Types of Wills Are There?
There are several main types of Wills, with the three most common ones being the following:
- Last Will and Testament. A Last Will and Testament describes who will control real and personal property after the death of the individual (referred to as the "Testator").
- Living Will. This document allows the Testator to ex[press their wishes regarding end-of-life treatment and palliative care (i.e.: articular breathing tubes, feeding, pain relief, etc.). A Living Will is, in essence, a more limited type of Advance Directive, and is often included as a separate part of Advance Directive paperwork.
- Advance Directive. Advance Directives are oral and written instructions about future medical care that enter into effect if the Testator becomes incapable of making decisions (for example, due to falling unconscious or being too ill to communicate). This is a legal document that, along with the provisions of a Living Will, contains clauses that allow the Testator to elect a health care proxy. This proxy is designated via medical power of attorney and will be tasked with making medical decisions for the Testator based on the wishes expressed in the Living Will.
How to Write a Will?
Writing your own Will is not difficult, but there are a few things to consider. Start by figuring out what to include in your Will:
- Create a list of assets including investments, property, cars, artwork, jewelry, retirement plans of pensions and such like things;
- Consider your debts if you have any. Think about the ability of the beneficiary to afford it, the cost of a will probate and a funeral;
- Elect beneficiaries;
- Pick an executor who will carry out your wishes regarding the legal and financial matters of your property;
- Select guardians for your children in the case both you and the other parent passes away. Discuss the possibility of a future responsibility with them.
While writing a Will is not difficult for the majority of people who have loved ones and material possessions, other situations may arise when advice from an attorney can come in handy in order to make sure necessary legal measures regarding your Estate, tax return and assets have been taken. For example:
- If you have a large property (over $5.43 million) the state allows for its estate or inheritance tax. In this case, you should do the property planning with an attorney to reduce your property tax;
- If you have a spouse and want to disinherit him or her in a Will;
- In a situation when you think some of your relatives may dispute your Will or you assume there will be a person trying to say you were not of sound mind while making your Will;
- You have a small business or you own a part of business;
- You have a disabled child;
- You have a Living Trust.
Living Trust Vs Will
Living Trusts (specifically, Revocable Living Trusts) and Wills are two estate-planning options designed specifically to help the Testator prepare for passing away. Both may be used for the following purposes:
- To elect beneficiaries that will receive the Testator's Estate.
- Name guardians for surviving children and pets.
- Elect an Executor tasked with carrying out the Testator's wishes.
- Provide guidance on the distribution of taxes and donations after the Testator's death.
Both are revisable, legally binding and require witnesses in order to be considered legal. There are, however, several things that can only be accomplished through a Revocable Living Trust:
- Beneficiaries will avoid probate. Property left through a Living Trust does not pass through probate.
- Helps preserve privacy. A Revocable Living Trust does not become public after the Testator's death.
- Must be witnessed in front of a Notary Public. Unlike Wills, Living Trusts must be signed and stamped by a Notary Public.
- Requires transfer of property. The Estate must be transferred into the Trust.
Download this Idaho legal document that spells out the medical treatments an individual would and would not want to be used to keep them alive. The form also clarifies the preferences for other medical decisions, such as pain management or organ donation.
This form serves as written directives of the patient wishing to express their desires regarding their medical treatment in the event of their potential mental incapacity. The form is used in the state of Montana.
This legal form encompasses the orders concerning your wishes about your future medical care in the state of Alabama. The document comes into play in the event of severe medical situations in which you are not able to communicate your wishes or make decisions.
Use this Alaska-specific form for cases when you are not able to communicate your wishes or make decisions. These may include directions regarding the use of mechanical ventilation or feeding tubes, as well as certain surgeries and medications.
Download this Arizona-specific Advance Directive for Health Care and consult your Area Agency on Aging, a lawyer, or financial planner before signing.
This Arkansas document encompasses the orders concerning your wishes about your future medical care. The document comes into play in the event of severe medical situations in which you are not able to communicate your wishes or make decisions.
This form serves the purpose of determining major health care-related decisions in the state of California in case the person becomes temporarily or permanently severely disabled and is no longer able to make decisions.
This form is used as part of the patient's medical records. It determines health care measures to be taken in the event of the patient's mental incapacity.
Use this Delaware-specific form for cases when you are not able to communicate your wishes or make decisions. These may include directions regarding the use of mechanical ventilation or feeding tubes, as well as certain surgeries and medications.
These are Georgia-specific written instructions about future medical care should you become unable to make decisions (for example, unconscious or too ill to communicate).
This form serves the purpose of determining major health care-related decisions in the state of Illinois in case the person becomes temporarily or permanently severely disabled and is no longer able to make decisions.
Use this legal document that specifies the type of medical care in Indiana that an individual does or does not want in the event they are unable to communicate their wishes. The will comes into play only when faced with a life-threatening condition and unable to assert specific desires regarding treatment.