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Quick & Legal Will Book

Your will, made easy

Create a will with the least amount of time and trouble with the Quick & Legal Will Book! Get the forms and step-by-step instructions to make a basic will that meets your needs — without paying an attorney. Find out how to:

  • name beneficiaries
  • set up a trust for minors
  • name an executor

Includes all the legal forms you need.

  • Product Details
  • Write a will that suits your needs with a minimum of fuss. This book provides all the forms and step-by-step instructions you need to create a simple, valid will that protects your family and property after your death.

    Make a will that lets you:

    • name beneficiaries to inherit your assets
    • choose a guardian for young children
    • set up trusts for minors, and
    • name an executor (and a backup).

    Learn how to:

    • choose appropriate witnesses
    • finalize your will, and
    • revoke or change your will if necessary.

    This book also explains basic estate planning, including steps you can take to avoid probate court. The updated 10th edition includes the latest changes in federal estate tax law and the annual gift tax exclusion.

    “An excellent book for lay people.”—Business Week

    “Nolo helps lay people perform legal tasks without the aid—or fees—of lawyers”—USA Today


    Number of Pages
    Included Forms

      Will Forms

      • Will Form 1. Married With Child(ren), Property to Spouse
      • Will Form 2. Married With No Children
      • Will Form 3. Single, Divorced, or Widowed With Child(ren)
      • Will Form 4. Single, Divorced, or Widowed With No Children
      • Will Form 5. All-Purpose Will
      • Beneficiary Worksheet
      • Additional Specific Gifts
      • Self-Proving Affidavits
      • Self-Proving Affidavit: Form 1
      • Self-Proving Affidavit: Form 2
      • Self-Proving Affidavit: Texas
      • Self-Proving Affidavit: Pennsylvania
      • Self-Proving Affidavit: Michigan
      • Will Codicil Form
  • About the Author
  • Table of Contents
  • Your Legal Companion for Making a Will

    1. Making a Basic Will

    • Is This Will Right for You?
    • Wills 101
    • Getting It Done
    • How to Proceed

    2. Your Beneficiaries

    • Categories of Beneficiaries
    • Shared Gifts
    • Survivorship Period
    • Simultaneous Death
    • Imposing Limits on Your Gifts
    • Disinheritance
    • If You Want to Explain Your Decisions

    3. Property Ownership

    • Basic Rules for Giving Away Property
    • Taking Stock of Your Property
    • The Beneficiary Worksheet
    • Types of Property Ownership
    • Marital Property

    4. Children

    • Naming a Personal Guardian
    • Managing Minors’ Property
    • Other Concerns About Children

    5. Your Executor

    • Choosing Your Executor
    • No Bond Required

    6. Estate Planning

    • What Is Probate?
    • Avoiding Probate
    • Federal Estate Taxes
    • State Taxes
    • Second Marriages
    • Other Property Control Matters
    • Incapacity

    7. Preparing the Draft of Your Will

    • Determine Which Form to Use
    • Instructions for Form 1
    • Instructions for Forms 3 and 5
    • Instructions for Forms 2 and 4

    8. Preparing and Signing Your Final Will

    • Making a Final Version
    • Signing and Witnessing Your Will
    • Self-Proving Affidavits
    • A Sample Completed Will, Including a Self-Proving Affidavit
    • Letters of Explanation

    9. Storing and Copying Your Will

    • Storing and Copying Your Will
    • Storing Your Will
    • Making Copies of Your Will

    10. Changing or Revoking Your Will

    • When to Make a New Will
    • Making Simple Changes in Your Will by Codicil
    • Revoking Your Will

    11. Going Further

    • Writing a More Complex Will
    • General Information on Estate Planning
    • Probate-Avoiding Living Trusts
    • Creating Documents for Health Care
    • Creating a Durable Power of Attorney for Finances
    • Using Lawyers


    A. Using the Downloadable Forms

    • Editing RTFs
    • List of Forms

    B. Forms

    • Wills
    • Beneficiary Worksheet
    • Additional Specific Gifts
    • Will Codicil

    C. Probate Exceptions by State


  • Sample Chapter
  • Chapter 1

    This book is for people who want to make a basic will—nothing complex, no frills, just a valid will that does the job. It is for people who want to leave their property outright (no strings attached) when they die to beneficiaries they have chosen.

    Following the step-by-step instructions in this book, you can create your own basic will that:

    • leaves your property to the people and organizations you choose
    • names someone to care for your minor children
    • names someone to manage property you leave to minor children, including your own children, and
    • names your executor, the person with authority to make sure that the terms of your will are carried out.

    This book contains five sample will forms that are valid in every state and Washington, D.C., with the exception of Louisiana (which has unique laws governing wills). These will forms have been carefully prepared to keep your work to a manageable amount.

    Before you dive into making your will, first consider some preliminary will-making issues. First, is this the right will for you? The first section of this chapter will help you decide. Next, do you know the legal basics about making a will? Just to be sure, this chapter also gives you a quick tutorial of will law. Finally, how do you get started? The final sections of the chapter will show you how.

    Is This Will Right for You?

    The wills in this book work fine for many people, but not for everyone. Whether one of these basic wills is right for you depends on the size of your estate, the complexity of your family situation, and your estate planning needs. This section will help you decide whether or not one of these wills is right for your situation.

    Using a Basic Will

    Wills come in varying sizes and complexities. If you have a large estate and complicated wishes for your property after you die, you might pay thousands of dollars for a 50-page will or trust drafted by a lawyer. But if you have an average-sized estate (roughly, less than $1 million) and a simple plan for the distribution of your property, you may only need a four-page basic will that you can prepare yourself. This book shows you how to make that kind of basic will.

    In fact, if you’re healthy, relatively young, and own property less than the threshold limit for federal estate taxes (see Chapter 6), a basic will may be the only estate planning you need, at least for now. As you become older or wealthier, a basic will may no longer be the most economical and efficient method for passing your property. At that time, you may want more sophisticated estate planning.

    However, for now, if you have an average-sized estate and your plans for your property are fairly simple, a basic will document will work for you.

    Living Overseas

    You do not have to live in the United States to prepare a will that is valid in this country. To prepare a valid will if you live abroad, you must follow the formal will requirements presented in this book and maintain legal residence in a U.S. state. If you live overseas temporarily because you are in the armed services, your residence is the home of record you declared to the military authorities.

    If you live overseas for business, education, or for the fun of it, you probably still have sufficient ties with a U.S. state to make it your legal home (“domicile” in legalese). For example, if you were born in New York, lived in New York, and are registered to vote there, then your residence is New York, for will-making purposes.

    If your choice is not clear. If you do not maintain continuous ties with a particular state, or if you have homes in the United States and another country, consult a lawyer before preparing your will.


    Making Your Own Will

    Let me reassure you here at the start that preparing a basic will is not hard for most people. A basic will is a simple document used to transfer your own property to those you want to get it after you die. If you have a modest estate and simple wishes about what you want to do with it, you can make your own basic will.

    Take a common situation, where both members of a married couple want to leave their property to the other spouse. If that spouse isn’t alive, then all property is to be divided equally between their kids. What the couple wants can be said in two sentences. Why should accomplishing their straightforward desire in a valid legal document be so difficult that an expert must be paid? This book is based on the truth that there’s no reason to involve a costly expert if a will writer has a simple estate and uncomplicated desires for what happens to that estate after death.

    Now let’s look at a few real-life situations where a basic will from this book will work fine.

    Example 1: Nyrit and Jerome, in their 40s, own a home with a mortgage, two cars, and some savings. Their net estate totals $723,000. They have one child, Mark, age 12. Each prepares a will leaving all of his or her property to the other. If they die together, Mark is to receive all their property. Nyrit and Jerome agree that Nyrit’s brother Iraz will care for Mark and manage the property they leave him until he is 18.

    Example 2: Sam, a widower, owns property with a net worth of $723,000. He has three adult children. He creates a will leaving all his property equally to his children. He specifies that if any child dies before him, that child’s share is to be divided equally between the surviving children.

    Example 3: Barbara is a divorced mother with two teenaged children and an estate totalling $123,000. Her ex-husband is a good father to their children, but is not good with money. Barbara prepares a will leaving all her property equally to her children. Because Barbara does not want her ex-husband managing money she leaves to her children, she uses her will to appoint her sister Debbie to manage each child’s property until each child turns 18.


    Who Should Not Use This Book

    If you have any complexities in your family situation, your property, or your beneficiary plans, this book is not for you. I could go on for pages trying to define what “complexities” are, but I believe I can rely on readers’ common sense here. I’ll offer a few specific examples of situations where you’d need to consult a lawyer to safely prepare your will:

    • A child or family member has a disability or other special needs that you wish to address in your will when leaving that person property.

    Special needs trusts. Many Americans care for a child or another loved one with a disability who requires support from government programs. Money and property left directly to people with disabilities may disqualify them from government assistance. With Special Needs Trusts: Protect Your Child’s Financial Future, by Kevin Urbatsch and Michele Fuller-Urbatsch (Nolo), you can create a special needs trust that provides for your loved one without jeopardizing public benefits.

    • You are in a second or subsequent marriage, you have children from a prior marriage, and you believe there is a real potential for conflict
    • between those children and the children you have with your current spouse. By contrast, there are certainly many second/subsequent marriages where such conflicts are unlikely. In that case, you can safely use a will from this book if it fits your other needs.
    • You believe that someone might contest your will. To contest a will, the person contesting must argue that the will writer was not mentally competent when writing it, or that the will was procured by fraud or duress (such as some evildoer exerting undue influence over the will writer). I want to assure you that will contests are quite rare, and it’s rarer that anyone succeeds in overturning a will. Happily, the great majority of people don’t face any realistic possibility of someone contesting their will.
    • You want to create a trust protecting property for two generations. For example, you want to leave some property in trust for your child, and you also want that property to go to that child’s children (your grandchildren) when your child dies.

    See Chapter 11 for information about other Nolo do-it-yourself resources that address concerns not covered by this book.

    Wills 101

    There are surprisingly few legal restrictions and requirements in the will-making process. Let’s look at the basic rules.

    Who Can Make a Will?

    You can create a valid will as long as you meet the following two criteria.

    You must be at least 18 years of age. Some states allow younger people to make a will if they are married, in the military, or legally emancipated (have achieved adult status by order of a court).

    You must be “of sound mind.” This means you must:

    • know what a will is, what it does, and that you are making one
    • understand the relationship between yourself and those you would normally provide for in your will, such as a spouse or children, and
    • understand the kind and quantity of property you own and how to distribute it.

    In real-world terms, a person must be pretty far gone before that person’s will could be invalidated by a judge on grounds of the will writer’s state of mind. Forgetfulness, or some diminution of memory capacity, isn’t sufficient to invalidate a will. If you can read and under- stand this book, your mind is sound enough to prepare a valid will.

    Will Requirements

    The laws in each state control whether a will made by a resident of that state is valid. You should make your will in the state where you live. If you move to another state, don’t worry. A will that is valid in the state where it was made is also valid in all other states.

    If you’re temporarily living outside the United States, your state is where you have your permanent residence (or “state of record,” if in the military). If you are living outside the United States permanently, do not use this book. Following are the bare-bones legal requirements of a valid will. The will must:

    • include at least one substantive provision—either giving away some property or naming a guardian to care for minor children who are left without parents
    • be signed and dated by the person making it
    • be witnessed by two people who are not beneficiaries of the will, and
    • preferably, name someone to enforce the terms of the will (your executor).
    • Also strongly advisable is that the will be comprehensible. There is no need for nonsensical, legal-sounding language, such as “I hereby give, bequeath, and devise.”
    • Contrary to what some people believe, a will need not be notarized to be legally valid.
    Identifying Your State

    Your state’s laws affect a number of will-related issues, including probate procedures, marital property ownership, and state inheritance and estate taxes. Most people are clear about which state they reside in. However, if you live in two or more states throughout the year, choose the state in which you are the most rooted as your state of residence. For instance, choose the state where you:

    • are registered to vote
    • register your motor vehicles
    • own real estate or other valuable property, or
    • maintain a business.


    Types of Wills

    These days, most wills are printed out from a computer, signed, and witnessed. That is the kind of will you would get from a lawyer, and that’s the kind of will you can make using the forms from this book. A will can also be typed and printed using a typewriter. There are a few other types of wills, but none are as legally reliable as a formal will that’s printed or typed, signed, and witnessed.

    Holographic Wills

    Unwitnessed, handwritten wills—in legalese, “holographic wills”—are legally valid in only a few states. Further, handwritten wills are risky, even where legal. Most obviously, after your death, it may be difficult to prove that an unwitnessed, handwritten document was actually written by you and that you intended it to be your will. Further, many judges hold handwritten wills to very strict standards.

    A typed will that has been properly signed and witnessed is much less vulnerable to a challenge of forgery or fabrication than a handwritten will. If need be, witnesses can later testify in court that the person whose name is on the will is the same person who signed it, and that the person made the will voluntarily and knowingly. Also, in many states a simple legal document called a self-proving affidavit may be signed by the will writer and the witnesses before a notary to make the will accepted in court more easily.

    Oral Wills

    A few states accept the historical leftover of oral (spoken) wills, but only under very limited circumstances, such as when a mortally wounded soldier utters last wishes. Oral wills, even in the states that accept them, are of no use for people in normal life situations who don’t fit into the narrow categories permitted.

    Electronic Wills

    Electronic wills are created, signed, and stored electronically. To make an electronic will, a testator writes a will on a computer, tablet, or phone, signs it electronically, has witnesses sign it, and then saves it to the device. Several states (Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, and Nevada) have passed their own statutes allowing electronic wills. Also, four states— Colorado, North Dakota, Utah, and Washington—have adopted the Uniform Electronic Wills Act. In all other states, wills have to be signed physically on paper by the testator and the witnesses.

    There may come a time when nearly all states allow electronic wills, but that time is not now. Currently, there is no consensus about some key issues. For example, does typing one’s name suffice as a signature, do witnesses need to be physically present with the testator, how will the testator’s identity be verified, what are the requirements for revocation, and can a will validly made in a state that allows electronic wills be probated in a state that doesn’t allow them? Until these issues are settled and electronic wills are explicitly permitted in the majority of states, make your will the traditional way—printed or typewritten on paper, signed with a pen, and in the presence of two witnesses who also sign.

    Video Wills

    Finally, you may have heard of video wills, in which you are filmed as you speak your will desires. Such wills are not legally valid wills, because no state legislature has authorized them.

    About Probate and Taxes

    You’ve probably heard of probate and know it has a dubious reputation. In probate, the will of a person who died is filed with a court, and that person’s property is located and gathered by the estate’s executor. Debts and taxes are paid, and the remaining property is distributed as the will directs. Most property passed by will must go through probate, but every state offers an exemption or a simplified version of probate for small estates. Each state’s laws define what a “small” estate is, and it varies widely by state. See Appendix C for a list of each state’s small estate limits.

    Probate certainly has drawbacks. It can be lengthy, commonly taking a year or more. It can also be expensive, normally requiring the services of lawyers and perhaps other specialists. Fees for these experts vary by state; however, payment will always come out of property you intended for family and friends.

    The good news is that people whose situations warrant a basic will don’t need to worry about probate at the time they write their will. The main concern of those who need a basic will is to make legal arrangements for the unlikely event that they die suddenly and unexpectedly. Yes, with a will there is a risk that their property may end up in probate. But for those who don’t expect to die soon, or die wealthy, that risk is preferable to creating complex and often costly estate plans many years or decades before they’re likely to come into play. (See Chapter 6 for more about probate and common ways to avoid it.)

    Similarly, if a basic will is right for you, you almost certainly don’t have to worry about federal estate taxes either. For deaths in 2023, $12.92 million worth of property can be transferred free of federal estate tax. (This amount is adjusted annually for inflation.) The result is that only the estates of the very wealthy actually pay federal estate tax.

    Unless you own property worth more than the estate tax exemption for the year you die, your estate will not owe federal estate tax. For more about estate taxes, see Chapter 6.

    People with estates above the estate tax threshold should seriously consider estate planning beyond the scope of this book. If your property, whether individually or combined as a couple, exceeds the estate tax threshold, you may be able to save large amounts of money from the tax man by using sophisticated planning methods. The rudiments of estate tax planning are discussed in Chapter 6.

    Getting It Done

    In the face of the intense emotional force and mystery of death, preparing a will may seem minor. Although this is not a philosophical or spiritual book, I want to acknowledge that the emotional realities involved in a death are profound. But however one chooses to deal with death spiritually or philosophically, there are practical issues that must be confronted.

    A will is the easiest way to handle one of the most important practical matters: transferring property. It’s also important to acknowledge that the process of writing a will is not only a practical necessity. Deciding who you want to receive your property after your death is often a meaningful process. The peace of mind one achieves by preparing a will—having one thing on that nagging list of “really should be dones” behind you—is very real and satisfying. Certainly it’s no denigration of death, or life, for you to be concerned with the wisest and most desirable distribution of your property.

    In spite of this, the unfortunate reality is that many Americans still don’t have a will. Why not? No one knows for sure, but here are my hunches:

    • Lack of reliable information. The legal establishment has managed to mystify the process of writing a will. People either fear making mistakes by doing it themselves or they don’t know they can prepare their own will. In fact, no law requires that a will be drafted or approved by a lawyer.
    • Cost. People understandably resist paying a hunk of money to a lawyer for what their intuition tells them shouldn’t be a difficult or complicated task.
    • Superstition. Some people fear that just thinking about the practical consequences of one’s death could somehow hasten death’s arrival. We know better, right?
    • Good old procrastination. For anyone with loved ones, it’s certainly a bad idea to risk dying without a will, which leaves the distribution of one’s estate for state law to determine. (This is called “dying intestate.”)
    What Happens If You Die Without a Will?
    If you die without a valid will (or another valid property transfer device such as a living trust), your state’s law specifies who gets your property. Each state’s laws divide a person’s property among close family members. No flexibility is allowed. Perhaps worse, the court will appoint the person who will supervise the distribution of your property (and receive a fee from that property for services)—it won’t be someone you’ve chosen. Also, if you have minor children and the other parent isn’t involved, a court will appoint a guardian for your children without your input. Certainly, there have been instances where the person the court appointed was far more concerned with extracting hefty fees from the property than with the children’s well-being. Enough said?


    How to Proceed

    This book is designed to lead you, sequentially, through the steps you’ll need to take to prepare your own will. Chapters 2 through 5 discuss the heart of making a will: who gets what, what will happen to your children, who will you name to be your executor. Chapter 6 briefly looks beyond a basic will into general estate planning.

    Chapter 7 contains detailed step-by-step instructions for completing the five will forms in this book. The will forms are shown in Appendix B and can be downloaded from this book’s special page on Depending on your marital status and whether or not you have children, you’ll select the will form that’s appropriate for you and carefully prepare a rough draft. You will find instructions for downloading the forms in Appendix A.

    In Chapter 8, you’ll learn how to create the final version of your will. You’ll sign it and have your will witnessed, completing the will-making process. Chapters 9 and 10 cover what happens after you’ve made a will, including suggestions on storing your will and the possibility of making changes to it. Finally, Chapter 11 gives information about going beyond this book, either by using other Nolo resources or hiring a lawyer.

    How to Make Your Will: A Checklist
    • Decide who you want to inherit your property.
    • Choose who you want to serve as your executor.
    • If you have young children, choose personal and property guardians for them. Pick the right will form.
    • Make a draft of your will. Check it over carefully.
    • Print out (or type) a final copy.
    • Sign the will in front of two witnesses who also sign it.
      • If your state uses a self-proving affidavit, sign and witness the will and the affidavit in front of a notary public.
    • Store your will in a safe place, where your executor will have access to it. Make a codicil or new will if your life situation changes.


    We hope you enjoyed this sample chapter. The complete book is available for sale here at

  • Forms
  • This Book Comes With a Website

    Nolo’s award-winning website has a page dedicated just to this book, where you can:

    DOWNLOAD FORMS - All forms in this book are accessible online. After purchase, you can find a link to the URL in Appendix A.

    KEEP UP TO DATE - When there are important changes to the information in this book, we will post updates

    And that’s not all. contains thousands of articles on everyday legal and business issues, plus a plain-English law dictionary, all written by Nolo experts and available for free. You’ll also find more useful books, software, online services, and downloadable forms.


4 Reviews
5 Star
4 Star
3 Star
2 Star
1 Star

I Have a WILL!

By BlindStevie

I wrote my own will in less than a day. I'm so excited.

Posted on 5/30/2023

Clear and Easy to Understand


Really appreciate the easy to read text, that thoroughly describes the processes involved. Have not started working in the forms yet but feel very confident about it.

Posted on 5/30/2023

Good choice for a very simple will.

By Ralph W.

I am very happy of my purchase of this book, it's eBook edition, especially the help of the Nolo staff in answering my questions about the book. I just needed a very basic will. And since I read that the will should be in print format, to be safe, thus, the download and easy to fill in file provided worked for me.

Posted on 5/30/2023


By Earl

This is a very readable and useful book that explains the basic concepts and considerations around writing a will. Having relatively simple wishes, I had no problem with writing my own. All of the forms / templates are available as downloadable computer documents that you can edit, personalize, and save. Perfect for a DIY kind of person like me.

But even if you have a more complicated situation in which you need to work with a lawyer (these are pointed out), this book is a great starting point for learning stuff that you need to learn regardless. Kudos to Nolo once again.

Posted on 5/30/2023

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