You should begin your will by revoking all previous wills or codicils (i.e., will amendments) that you’ve already made.

The first sentence should read as follows:

I, John Smith of Springfield, Massachusetts, being of sound mind and memory, do hereby make and declare this my last will and testament, hereby revoking all wills and codicils heretofore made by me.

Next you should appoint your personal representative.

This person will be the legal representative of your estate.

They will handle most of the legal and financial paperwork involved in the probate process.

It’s often best to appoint a personal representative who is an heir of the estate.

And it’s also a good idea to name an alternate personal representative.

Here is an example of the personal representative clause.

I appoint my wife, Jane Smith of Springfield, Massachusetts, to be the Personal Representative of this will.  If my wife is unable or unwilling to serve as Personal Representative, then I appoint my son, Matthew Smith of Springfield, Massachusetts, to be the Personal Representative of this will.

If possible, you should avoid appointing “co-personal representative”.

Having two personal representatives often doubles the amount of time it takes to probate a will.

If you fully trust your personal representative, then you should eliminate the need for a surety bond or a court license to sell your real estate.

My Personal Representative shall serve without bond or surety.  I also give my Personal Representative the power to sell real estate without license of Probate Court.

Finally, you should name your devisees.  These are the people who will inherit your property.

Most people give their entire estate to their spouse.

I give all my estate, both real and personal, to my wife Jane Smith.

If the spouse should die beforehand, then they give their estate to their children in equal shares.

For example,

If my wife has predeceased me, then I give my estate, both real and personal, in equal shares, to my children Matthew Smith and Ann Smith.

The will should be witnessed by two people who are not heirs or devisees.

All signatures should be notarized.

You should never write your own will.

What I’ve discussed here is just a general overview of a basic will.

There are technicalities to almost everyone’s estate that need to be handled by an attorney.

The slightest error drafting a will could be extremely costly when the document is submitted to probate court.

Also, if you speak to several attorneys you’re bound to find one willing to draft an estate plan for you at a reasonable price.

If you have any questions about estate planning, please feel free to contact me at justin@jrmccarthy.com