There are several requirements for making your will a legal document.
- It usually must be typed or computer generated. Handwritten wills are legal in some states.
- You must state somewhere in the document that it is your will.
- You must date and sign your will.
- You must sign your will in the presence of at least two witnesses (three in some states, such as Vermont) and your witnesses must also sign.
A legal will doesn’t have to be notarized (except in Louisiana), nor does it have to be recorded or registered with any government agency. After your will has been signed, put it in a safe and fairly obvious place, like a locked metal file cabinet, and tell your spouse, partner, or executor where it is.
Safe deposit boxes are not always a good place for wills because many banks have restrictions on who can access and remove things from them. If a family member or executor can’t open your safe deposit box, it could tie up your estate for some time. Make sure you understand your bank’s rules about withdrawals from safe deposit boxes before putting your will in one.
For many families the real hurdle of creating a will is emotional. To make things easier and maybe even fun, make a pact with another family or two to get your wills done at the same time. Since you need at least two witnesses not named in your will, get together and sign each other’s documents over bagels and coffee or wine and cheese. This can take a lot of the intimidation out of the process.
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