But simply writing a last will doesn’t make it totally legal. There are a few steps you’ll have to take afterwards and, though these vary from state to state, these steps are fairly similar no matter where you live.
Sign, Witness, and Notarize
For a last will to be legal, you’ll of course have to sign it in front of witnesses and a notary public. The number of witnesses needed to make your will fully legal does vary depending on the state you call home, but almost every state requires at least two witnesses present.
Both you and your witnesses should sign your last will in front of a notary and then to notary should sign on the final page. This signifies your will is legally binding.
Put Your Will in a Safe Place
Having a last will won’t do you much good if no one can find it. Make sure you keep yours in a secure place, generally at home in a safe or in a jointly-owned safe deposit box. It’s also a great idea to create a couple copies and give them to people you trust, such as your children, spouse, and estate planning attorney.
Finish Your Estate Plan
Remember, a last will is part of your estate plan, not the whole thing. It’s important to create a power of attorney, a living will, and a living trust(s) for your loved ones. You can read more about creating a comprehensive estate plan in our “Wills v. Estate Plan” article. Certain important decisions -- like who can make end of life decisions for you -- cannot be included in your will.
Review and Amend Your Will
If you have a new granddaughter or purchase a car you know your son your son would like, you don’t have to redo your entire last will. That’s what codicils are for. Codicils allow you to make legal changes to your existing will like the ones we mentioned above.
It’s especially important to do this after big life changes, like a marriage, a divorce, or the birth of a child. And of course, make sure you keep your codicils with your will.