What is a will?
A will is a legal document you use to leave property to close family members, friends, or charities. In your will, you name beneficiaries to inherit your property, an executor to wrap up your estate, guardians to care for your young children, and caretakers to own and care for your pet. You can set up a trust for money inherited by children. You can also forgive debts owed to you and state how you want your debts, expenses, and taxes to be paid.
To begin creating your will, visit the Nolo’s Online Will page at the Nolo website.
What can I do with this will?
With this will you can:
- Name beneficiaries (and alternate beneficiaries) to inherit your property.
- Name a guardian to care for your young children.
- Create a trust or a custodianship and choose an adult to manage your children’s property.
- Cancel debts others owe to you.
- State how your debts, expenses, and taxes are to be paid.
- Name an executor to carry out the terms of your will.
What information do I need to make my will?
It will be easier to make your will if you’ve gathered some information first:
- a rough inventory of your property (but if you plan to leave everything to one or a few people, you can skip this)
- a list of beneficiaries — that is, the people who will get your property
- a list of alternate beneficiaries — the people who will inherit your property if your first-choice beneficiary dies before you
- if you have young children, a list of your first and second choices for guardian
- a list of your first and second choices for executor
- contact information for people you name as guardian, executor, or caretaker for your pet
- information about debts that you want to forgive, including the date you lent the money and the amount you want to forgive
- account numbers and locations of any accounts you want used to pay debts, expenses, and taxes
How long will it take to make my will?
You could make a very basic will in just a few minutes. But a will is an important document; don’t rush. Put aside an hour or two to think about your wishes and make your will.
How long will you store my personal information?
After you purchase your will, Nolo stores your personal information for one year. During that time, you can return to Nolo’s Online Legal Forms to change your will or print copies for your reference.
If you do not want Nolo to keep your personal information, you can delete it at any time.
What if I have questions along the way?
Nolo’s Online Legal Forms provides extensive legal and practical information to help you every step of the way. On the right side of every screen in the interview, you’ll see information about the choices you’re making right then.
What will my completed will look like?
Click the link below to go to the Nolo website to access a sample will. Of course, this is just a sample; your document will reflect your property, your circumstances, and your state’s laws.
What do I do with my completed will?
You need to sign your will in front of two adults who do not inherit under your will. These people don’t need to read the will, but each must sign it as a witness. Store this original document in a safe place, such as a fire-proof box. (Complete signing instructions will print out with your finished will.)
Can I make copies of my completed will?
It’s fine to give a copy of your will to your executor or other loved ones for informational purposes, but do this only with unsigned copies so it’s absolutely clear that the copy isn’t a legally effective will. (It’s a good idea to store one unsigned copy with your signed document, in case you need to make copies later.)
Do not sign more than one copy of the will. Doing so creates more than one original document and could cause confusion after your death.
What if I want to change something later?
You have access to your Nolo’s Online Legal Forms will for a full year from the purchase date. During that period, you can make revisions as needed.
To revise your will after you’ve purchased it, sign in, and select the document you want to edit on your Nolo’s Online Legal Forms home page. You can’t edit your completed document directly — you’ll need to find the document interview screen that has the answer you want to change and do it there.
If you revise your will after finalizing an earlier version, you’ll need to sign it and have it witnessed again – as you did with the earlier version. Nolo’s Online Will always prints out with instructions that explain how to finalize your will.
What other estate planning documents might I need?
In addition to a will, you might consider making: a living trust (whose main advantage is to avoid probate court proceedings after your death), a health care directive (to appoint someone to make health-related decisions if you become too ill to do it), and a power of attorney (to allow a trusted person to arrange your affairs if you can’t).
Learn more about these documents and how they can help your family at nolo.com.
You can make a living trust online now with Nolo’s Online Living Trust.
Is it safe to make a will without a lawyer?
Making a will rarely involves complicated legal rules, and if you’re like most people, you won’t need a lawyer. It’s up to you to leave your property however you like. Most people do not find this task too difficult.
We’ll walk you step-by-step through the process of making your own legal will. And if a situation arises in which you may benefit from the advice of a lawyer or other expert, we’ll be the first to tell you.
If you do decide to get help from an attorney, let Nolo’s Lawyer Directory take the guesswork out of finding a great lawyer.
Is this will right for me?
The Nolo’s Online Legal Forms Will is a straightforward, legally valid document. It should work well for most people with typical assets such as a house, a car, savings, and investments.
It’s always fine to make a simple will — everybody needs one. But there are some situations in which you may need more than a simple will and should get expert advice or, at the least, investigate your options. For example:
- If you think that you or your spouse may leave assets worth more than $5 million, your estate may owe federal estate tax, and you should investigate tax-saving strategies.
- If you anticipate family fights, see a lawyer for advice on how to stave off bad feelings and legal battles.
- If you want to set up a long-term trust for a child with special needs, find out how you can provide for your child without jeopardizing government benefits. See Special Needs Trusts by Stephen Elias and Kevin Urbatsch (Nolo).
Nolo’s Online Will is not appropriate for residents of Louisiana or the U.S. territories. You must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind (meaning you know what you own and who you want to leave it to) to make a valid will.
For in-depth information about estate planning, see Plan Your Estate by best-selling author Denis Clifford.
Why can’t I make Nolo’s Online Will in Louisiana?
Nolo does not provide estate planning products for Louisiana. Louisiana’s estate planning laws differ significantly from estate planning laws in the other 49 states. Louisiana based its laws on the Napoleonic code, while the other states based their laws on English common law, and Louisiana’s estate planning laws remain unique. If you have questions about estate planning in Louisiana, see a local lawyer.