Jasper L. Edwards
The purpose of a last will and testament is to spell out in unambiguous detail who should receive your estate when you’re gone. Traditionally, people would go to a lawyer and ask them to draw this document. But there was a problem with this approach: it was expensive. Legal professionals often charge hundreds of dollars per hour. So, getting them to fill out a simple will for an estate could set the testator back significantly.
Innovative agencies, therefore, began looking for ways to cut the cost of the process. Their primary idea was to create a template for writing a will - a kind of structure that would ensure that will writers hit all the critical points for the document to become legally binding. Templates don’t entirely replace lawyers, but they do reduce the amount of time they have to dedicate to them and, therefore, the bills you ultimately wind up paying.
How much could a full will writing service cost? Prices vary depending on your circumstances, but most people who get their wills lawyer-drafted typically pay between $200 and $1,000. By contrast, templates usually cost very little or are entirely free, allowing you to pass on more of your estate to your next of kin.
Wills for Simple Estates
Last wills and testaments are something that a lot of people associate with individuals who have vast sprawling estates, multiple properties, complex business arrangements, and stock market investments. But, in reality, the vast majority of people requiring a will only have simple estates. You can often create a list of their assets on a single sheet of A4 paper. And because they don’t have complicated international property investments or commercial dealings, there is not such a great need for professional legal advice.
In these situations, templates are the optimal solution. These clever documents allow you to quickly complete all the sections of a will required by law, ensuring that your possessions pass to the people you want them to go to when you die.
Remember, if you don’t file a will, your estate will pass to your next of kin under intestacy laws. These statutes dictate how executors must distribute your assets and may not align with your wishes.
What is a Will Template?
A will template is simply a document or piece of software that makes it easier for you to fill out a will. It’s a little bit like a typical form you might fill out. The creator of the template creates a set of fields for you to complete and you simply fill them in.
A typical will template will include the following elements:
● Testator information: This section contains the personal information of the person to whom the will applies (the owner of the estate). Fields typically include name, city, and state.
● Executor information: This section provides the details of the person charged with carrying out your “last will and testament.” Usually, it is somebody you know and trust. You can also elect to use successor executors if the original executor is no longer able to fulfil their function.
● Personal property information: The template will then ask you about whether you want to leave specific gifts of personal property to people you know. You’ll need to give their names, addresses, and contact information.
● Beneficiary of cash information: Templates will also ask you to explicitly identify “beneficiaries of cash” - people you want to give any remaining cash to after you die.
● Remaining estate: If you have any other property you would like to distribute after your death, you can use the “remaining estate” part of the template. Here you can detail the name of the person you would like to receive the property, and the proportion they should get.
● Appointed guardians: Appointed guardians are people you would like to look after your pets after you die. You can use templates to specify precisely who you would like to fulfill this role.
● Final details: This last section is an opportunity for you to provide any special directives or last wishes in your will. Examples include things like putting money into trusts for grandchildren or specifying how you would like beneficiaries to use the money you leave them.
Once you fill in all these sections, the will template will generate a final, legally-approved document for you, with all the necessary blurb. You don’t have to write this yourself, cutting down on the effort and time involved.
What Types of Will Templates Are There?
There are several different types of will templates available. We’ve already mentioned software but there are others. For instance, you can now find sample wills on the internet and get all the information you need to create a legally compelling will. Sometimes, this approach can be helpful if you want to customize the wording or the language you use in the will. Just be careful, though, that you avoid making the document ambiguous. One of the reasons a lot of people use a lawyer-drafted will is that it makes it completely clear who should receive what.
Other times, you’ll find sites offering free will templates that you can download, print, and fill out by hand. In many ways, there are the simplest and most familiar because they work just like any other legal form. You just fill in the blanks with your personal details. Ultimately, they’re a physical version of software templates. But instead of typing into fields on your computer, you’re completing them by hand on a sheet of paper.
You can also find will templates in books. Clearly, these are quite different from the templates we’ve discussed so far, but they can still be helpful. Many books take you through the step-by-step process to create a legally-binding will from the ground up. This approach provides you with added flexibility, but it also increases the likelihood that you’ll make an error, so be careful.
What Are The Advantages Of A Will Template?
So now that you understand what a will template is, it’s time to take a look at some of the advantages that it offers.
Quick And Easy
The purpose of will templates is to provide you with a quick and easy way to write a will.
Importantly, will templates do two things:
1. They ensure that you do not make any omissions
2. They provide you with a clearly defined way to allocate your estate
Templates don’t require you to write in legal language - they provide all that for you. All you need to do is complete a simple questionnaire about who you would like to receive what, and the template will do the rest for you. You won’t have to write out “articles” in professional legal language talking about expenses, distribution of personal property, beneficiaries, or anything else. That’s all done for you.
We already mentioned one of the major benefits of using a template for writing a will above - the fact that it can save you money. The average price of writing a lawyer-drafted will is anywhere between $200 and $1,000. If you have a complex case, some lawyers will charge upwards of $1,200 - which is a lot of money for many people. The cost of templates, by contrast, is considerably less. Many are free. And what’s more, they’re written in such a way as to make them just as legally binding (so long as you fulfill witnessing requirements) as documents your lawyer creates.
Expedite The Settlement Process
Estates without a will can lead to long and costly disputes between the beneficiaries. It can take many months, if not years, of legal wrangling to sort out who should receive what. As an individual, you’ll want to avoid that kind of squabbling. Using a template to write a will makes it unambiguous who the beneficiaries are and what they should receive. This, in turn, expedites the legal process, ensuring people can begin benefiting from your estate sooner.
It can be stressful for both you and your next-of-kin if you haven’t written a will. Beneficiaries can worry about who will receive your possession, were you to pass on unexpectedly - and so can you. Again, templates provide a helpful solution. These clever tools allow you to quickly create a legally-recognized document that sets out precisely who should get what. Filling them out online takes a few minutes. And you don’t need any formal legal training. All the official wording is done on your behalf, simplifying the process, and removing much of the risk.
Easy For People With Small Estates
If you have a small estate, going to a legal professional can be surplus to requirements. If you own a house, some possessions, and a little cash, then distributing it to beneficiaries via a template is relatively simple. So long as you don’t have complex business relationships, you should be okay.
You Stay In Control
If you are sick to the point where you are unable to write a will, you could lose control over who receives your possessions in the event of your death. The courts or somebody acting on your behalf could create a will that distributes possessions in a way that you wouldn’t have chosen yourself. Fortunately, you can avoid this by using a will template early. Getting the ball rolling before you become seriously ill can help massively. It convinces the courts that you were “of sound mind” when you made your last will and testament.
Remember, when you die, it will be an emotional time for your next-of-kin. They will be mourning your loss, so the last thing they want is uncertainty. Everyone should know what they’re getting in advance.
Make Easy Adjustments to Your Will
As you go through life, you will occasionally have to make adjustments to your will. Beneficiaries, for instance, might die, you could get divorced, or marriage could change the nature of your relationship with recipients. Traditionally, if you wanted to change your will, you would have to go back to the lawyer and get them to draft a new set of documents. And, unfortunately, that would require paying another hefty fee for their time.
But with templates, it’s a different story. You DON’T have to spend a fortune refiling your will. Instead, you simply type the new arrangements in the fields and then get your two disinterested witnesses to view the signing of the document.
When you think about it, this is arguably the biggest advantage of will templates. While paying $200 to $1,000 for a one-off will writing service is manageable for most people, the reality is that you often have to return to lawyers multiple times as your life circumstances change. For instance, if you divorce your spouse, you may want to remove them from a pre-existing will. Similarly, you don’t want ambiguous situations arising from the death of one of the beneficiaries.
Fill Out Your Will at A Time That Suits You
A final advantage of a will template is that it allows you to complete a will whenever you like. You’re free to fill out a template in the evenings and weekends, without having to go to a physical location or work around a legal professional’s timetable.
In conclusion, the answer is yes, there is a template for writing a will. Which you choose, however, will depend on your personal circumstances and preferences. You can either use software to complete a will document online or download one and fill it out yourself, just as you might any other paper-based form. You can also get instructions from books if templates don’t quite cover your needs.
Whether a will template is suitable for you will depend on the circumstances of your estate and the flexibility of the form. Some templates will not provide the degree of detail you need to allow the executor to carry out your wishes accurately. In that case, you might prefer to go to a lawyer. In most other circumstances, however, templates offer a cheaper and more flexible alternative.
Free Wills to Print provides detailed information on Free Wills, How to Write a Will, Last Will And Testament, Living Wills and more.