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Last Will and Testament

Learn everything you need to know about wills and how to make one online.

What is a will?

A last will and testament is a legal document that provides instructions on how to distribute your property and belongings to your beneficiaries when you die. Your beneficiaries can include family, friends, and even charities. Your will also lets you appoint a guardian to take care of your dependents. 

Wills are an important part of an estate plan that everyone should have. When planning for the future, you want to be secure in knowing that your assets will go to your loved ones when you pass away. If you die without a will, the court will determine your heirs.

What do people usually put in their will?

You can use your will to give away virtually anything you own outright. This could include a house, a car, money, and personal belongings — even something of little monetary value, like your plants. If you own items jointly, like as community property, you may be able to bequeath your portion.

→ Learn more about what to include in a will .

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Do I need a will?

If you don't have a will, then the probate court will decide what to do with your assets after you're gone. A will not only codifies who gets your stuff, but how much, and which items each of your heirs can receive. Without a will, beneficiaries may receive assets in ways you never intended.

You need a will to: 

  1. Give away assets: A will is the best way to ensure that your property is divided up according to your wishes. This is especially important for assets of sentimental value, which, without a will, could get lumped in with the larger estate instead of going to your intended recipient.

  2. Choose a guardian for your minor children: In the event that both parents die without naming anyone in their will, the state must select a guardian, which may not be the best person to care for your dependents.

  3. Name an executor to handle your estate: Once you pass away, you’ll need someone to settle your affairs. An executor makes sure your heirs receive their inheritance, pays your remaining debts, and files your last tax return. 

Individuals vs couples 

If you’re married, you can get a will together or make separate wills. Your surviving spouse will likely get some or all of your assets when you die without a will, but if you want someone other than a spouse to inherit something then you need a will to say so. 

If you’re not married, you can still benefit from getting a will. For example, a will can make sure your sister gets that rare artwork of yours that she always admired.

Should I add a trust?

Like a will, a trust can be used to distribute your belongings. Trusts hold onto your assets and pass them to future beneficiaries according to your instructions. That means you can restrict how much money someone receives with a trust or at what age they receive it. 

You might also want to get a trust if you have a larger estate or want to keep the details of your estate private. The contents of a will eventually enter the public record. 

→ Learn more about trusts vs wills and how they work together. 

How to create a will

  • Use a will-making service: Making a will online with a digital service is a good, cost-effective option for many people because you can make a personalized and state-specific will, without necessarily having to research your state’s laws.

  • Work with an estate attorney: The traditional way of creating a will is also the most expensive option, but some people may benefit if they have a large or complex estate.

  • Write your own will: You can type or even handwrite a will on your own as long as you follow all of your state’s laws. However, these wills offer the least protection for your heirs and may be more vulnerable to a court challenge.

Create a will on Policygenius, starting at just $120

How much does it cost to get a will?

Online services generally charge half as much as an attorney to create a will. 

  • Price of online wills: $0 to $300

  • Price of attorney-drafted wills: $200 to $1,000

  • Price of a will from Policygenius: $120

While you can get free wills — such as forms or templates that you fill out on your own — these could leave gaps in your estate plan. Online will-writing services can offer stronger legal protection, and they should be specific to your state. 

Creating a will with a lawyer will almost always cost more, especially in bigger cities. However, it may be worthwhile if you have more complex needs, like if you need legal advice on minimizing taxes, creating a trust, or writing someone out of your will. 

→ Learn more about the cost of a will .

How to write a will with Policygenius

These are the basic steps you’ll need to take when writing a will, regardless of the type of will:

  1. Log into our online will-making service
. If this is your first time, you’ll need to start an account.

  2. Designate beneficiaries
. Most people choose their spouse, kids, and other loved ones, but beneficiaries can be almost anyone you want.

  3. Choose what assets to include in your will
. This could include everything from your house to small or priceless items. Anything not specifically bequeathed becomes part of the “residue” of the estate.

  4. Name a guardian for a minor child
 and dependents. This is to make sure that someone you trust can continue caring for your dependents.

  5. Pick an executor. You’ll need someone to represent your estate, so it should be someone who knows your wishes best.

  6. Determine whether or not you want to open a trust 
. A trust may have stricter requirements for receiving assets, allowing you more control over your estate after you’re gone.

  7. Designate a trustee. If you decide to open a trust, you’ll need someone, the trustee, to administer the trust.

→ Read this step-by-step guide on how to write a will .

Why trust Policygenius?

  • Attorney-approved tools:  We worked with attorneys licensed in your state to develop the tools, templates, and process of getting an affordable will and trust.

  • Made for your state:  Wills and trusts made with Policygenius meet state-specific legal requirements.

  • Made for your needs:  You can customize your will to meet your family’s unique needs. And you can establish an optional trust to give you more control over how your assets are distributed.

  • Made for your budget:  Estate planning documents start at just $120 — with no billable hours or hidden fees.

  • Made for your schedule:  We break up the process into achievable pieces and outline your options in plain English at every step.

FAQs about wills

Learning about wills and estate planning can be overwhelming, but Policygenius is here to help.

Frequently Asked Questions

What makes a will legally binding?

A legally binding will must follow state law.

Every will needs to be signed by the testator in the presence of witnesses, who should not be beneficiaries of the will and who can testify that the testator was of sound mind when they signed it. Any will with a self-proving affidavit must also be notarized.

What are the different types of wills?

There are a few different types of wills you may encounter when you begin your estate plan. An online will is just a type of will you create online, and it can be a simple will or a more complex joint will. Your will can also "pour over" into a trust or even establish a new trust.

Can I update my will?

You may want to update your will if you’ve made an error, left something out, or reached a new life milestone, like having another child. You can update your estate plan from Policygenius at no additional charge. 

Are wills and trusts only for rich people?

No. Anyone who wants future financial protection for their loved ones should open a will or trust. The law can get tricky, and you want to make sure your loved ones safely inherit your assets when you’re no longer around.

Can I disinherit someone?

Under state law, your family or next of kin typically has a right to inherit if you didn’t write a will or create an estate plan. If you want to disinherit an heir you need to write a will and leave them out of it, and if you want your heirs, like your children, to inherit unequal amounts of your estate you also need a will to specify that.

What should I do with my will after it’s legally binding?

After you’ve taken the necessary steps to ensure the validity of your will, keep the will in a safe place that your loved ones can access. You may also want to give a copy to a person you trust, such as a close family member.

What is probate?

Probate is the legal process of proving a will and deciding how your belongings are distributed. If you die without a will, then the local court will decide what to do with your assets according to state law, and it may not be what you wanted.

What else goes into an estate plan?

In addition to a will and trust, there are some essential estate planning documents that most people would benefit from having. A power of attorney gives someone you choose the legal ability to make financial or medical decisions on your behalf if you're unable to do so. A living will specifies what medical care you want to receive if you become sick, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to communicate your own wishes.