Simple Will

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF® | Reviewed by Editorial Team

Updated on December 26, 2022

What Is a Simple Will? 

A Simple Will is an estate planning document that provides instructions on how the testator’s (the individual making the Will) assets will be distributed after he has passed. It also assigns guardians for his dependents, if there are any.

The simple Will is the most basic type of last Will and Testament. Other types of Wills are joint, holographic, oral, and living.

If an individual passes away without a valid Will, he is said to have died intestate. This means that the state in which he resides will decide how his wealth will be distributed.

A valid Will assures the testator that his final wishes will be respected. It also provides peace of mind knowing that his estate will be handled according to his instructions.

What Is Included in a Simple Will?

A Simple Will typically contains several key components. These are the following:

  • Testator’s Information and Signature: The testator is the person who created the Will. The Will must include their full name, address, other crucial details about them, and their signature.
  • Date Signed: The Will must contain the day, month, and year the document was signed and witnessed.
  • Beneficiaries and Assigned Assets: The Will must include the names of the individuals or organizations assigned to receive certain assets from the deceased's estate.
  • Appointed Executor: The Will must also appoint an executor. This is the testator's personal representative who is responsible for carrying out the conditions stipulated in the Will.
  • Witnesses’ Signatures: The Will must also include the signatures of the individuals who witnessed the testator affix his signature on the Will. 

The Will should also contain confirmation that the testator comprehends the document he is drafting and that no one coerced him into signing it. 

In addition, this new Will must contain a statement that the testator declares all other previous Wills invalid.

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Making a Simple Will Valid

Many people put off creating a last Will and Testament because they do not want to think about death or prepare for the events following it. Some are also afraid that the courts will not uphold their final wishes.

Therefore, it is important to take the necessary measures to ensure the validity of a Will. Here are some tips:

  • The testator drafting the Will must be at least 18 years old, have a sound mind, and understand what they are doing. 
  • The testator must also sign the Will without anyone forcing or manipulating them into it.
  • The documentary requirements needed as attachments to a Will differs from each state. For example, some states require Wills to be notarized.
  • The number of adults needed to witness the testator sign the Will varies by state, but it is generally between two and three. In some states, a notary public must also be present as an additional witness.

How to Write a Simple Will

The task of writing a Will may appear to be challenging. However, the process can become quite simple with the right guidance and understanding. Here are the steps in writing a simple Will:

Step 1: Draft the Will

Start by creating an inventory of your assets, including real estate properties, bank accounts, investments, businesses, and personal items. Choose your beneficiaries who will inherit your assets. 

Appoint an executor with whom you have full confidence that your instructions will be implemented as planned. 

Step 2: Sign It in Front of the Witnesses

After you have finished writing your Will, sign it in front of the correct number of adult witnesses. These individuals must also sign the document. 

It is important to note that the witnesses cannot be people who would benefit from the Will or married to someone who would benefit from it.

Step 3: Safe Keep the Original Copy

Keep your Will in a safe and easily accessible place once it is written and signed. This could be a safety deposit box, with a close friend or family member, or anywhere else you feel comfortable. 

Having an extra copy of the notarized Will is also recommended.

Step 4: Regularly Revisit the Will

Every 5 years, you should review and update your Will, which is especially important if any big life changes have occurred since the last time you updated it. Some examples of these changes include marriage, the birth of children, divorce, or death in the family.

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Who Needs a Simple Will?

Generally, a legal Will is essential for anyone who is: 

(1) over 18 years old, 

(2) with assets, or 

(3) with kids. 

All individuals 18 and over, regardless of relationship status or sexual orientation, should create a Will to stipulate what happens to their assets after death.

These assets may include savings, investments, real estate properties, businesses, and other valuables. These can also include personal items like family heirloom items, collections, and contents of safe deposit boxes.

Parents with minor children need a Will to legally appoint a guardian to take care of their kids in the event of death. This would ensure that their children are taken care of by someone whom they trust completely.

Cost of a Simple Will 

Some websites provide free online templates for individuals who wish to draft a Simple Will. This is recommended if their state of residence does not require a Will to be notarized for it to be declared valid. 

Although many free resources are available, some individuals are afraid to commit errors when writing a Will. Thus, these individuals might benefit from the expertise and guidance of a professional, such as a financial advisor or estate planning lawyer

Depending on the attorney's experience and the circumstances, a Simple Will might cost between $300 and $1,200. The total fee would differ depending on the complexity of the testator’s situation, how many assets are involved, and the attorney’s experience level.

When Is a Simple Will Not Enough?

A simple Will might not suffice for some people. They may require a more complicated last Will and Testament instead. The level of complexity for a Will depends on various factors, such as:

  • Size of the Estate: The bigger the testator’s estate, the bigger the tax. A simple Will may not be sufficient for this more complex situation. A thorough estate planning process and a different type of Will are advisable.
  • Value and Number of Assets: Assets can include real estate properties, investments, businesses, and personal valuables. The more assets there are, the more complex it will be to assign beneficiaries for them.
  • Number and Type of Beneficiaries: A Will’s beneficiaries can be individuals or organizations, such as charities. Generally, the more beneficiaries there are and the more varied their types, the higher the need for a more complex Will.
  • Anticipated Life Changes: If the testator anticipates some changes in their personal situation, like getting married, divorced, or having children, these events would require changes in the beneficiaries. In these instances, a more complex Will might be suitable. 

The Bottom Line

A simple Will is the most basic type of last Will and Testament, which provides instructions on how a testator’s assets will be distributed after death. It also assigns guardians for any dependents.

If an individual passes away without a valid Will, the state in which he resides will decide how his wealth will be distributed. For this reason, anyone at least 18 years old, with assets or kids, needs to have a valid Will.

To make a Will valid, the testator must be at least 18 years old and have a sound mind when drafting the Will. The testator must also sign the Will without being forced or manipulated in the presence of at least two witnesses.

The Will must also include complete details such as the testator’s information and signature, the date signed, a list of beneficiaries and their assigned assets, an appointed executor, and the signature of the correct number of witnesses. 

For most individuals, a Simple Will’s format can meet their needs. However, in some cases, a simple Will may not be sufficient. 

Thus, individuals with larger estates, more valuable assets, more beneficiaries, or upcoming life changes might find it helpful to seek the advice of an estate planning lawyer to ensure that their Will maximizes asset protection and minimizes estate taxes.

Simple Will FAQs

What is a simple will?

A simple Will is the most basic type of last Will and Testament, which provides instructions on how the testator’s assets will be distributed after death. It also assigns guardians for dependents, if there are any.

Can you write a simple will for free?

Yes, there are online websites where you can write your Will for free. Make sure that your state of residence does not require a Will to be notarized for it to be valid if you plan on using free online resources.

Why do you need a simple will?

If an individual passes away without a valid Will, the state in which he resides will decide how his wealth will be distributed. For this reason, anyone at least 18 years old, with assets or kids, needs to have a valid Will.

How much does a simple will cost?

A simple Will would cost from $0 to $1,200, depending on whether you do it online or hire a professional. Some websites provide free online templates. If you hire a professional, it would cost between $300-$1,200.

When is a simple will not enough?

A simple Will’s format might not be enough for individuals with larger estates, more valuable assets, more beneficiaries, or upcoming life changes might. They may require a more complicated last Will and Testament instead, along with the support of an estate planner.

About the Author

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website, view his author profile on Amazon, or check out his speaker profile on the CFA Institute website.

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