How to write a Last Will and Testament [step by step] +checklist

This is the most comprehensive guide on how to write a last will and testament.

This guide discusses;

the meaning of last will and testament

forms/types of will

characteristics of will

how to write a valid will

sample of the last will and testament

what to do after writing a will


what is a Last Will and Testament?

Will is a legal document in which a person (testator) voluntarily declares how he desires his properties to be handled and finally distributed, once he dies. A testator appoints his hires and a person (executor) who will execute his desires through a Will.

Forms/types of  a Last Will and Testament

Generally, there are two forms of Will; i.e Oral Will and Written Will. However, a written will appears to be appropriate because it is simple to prove its existence.

Forms and contents of the Will are always affected by statutory laws (Statutory Will), religions (Islamic wills), and customs (customary Wills) of a certain locality.

Therefore before writing your Will, you must put into consideration relevant statutes, your religion and custom apply in your life. One may wish to prepare a statutory will, an Islamic will, or a customary will.

Characteristic of a Last Will and Testament

  1. It operates only as a declaration of intention.
  2. It is revocable i.e you can cancel your Will at any time before death.
  3. It takes effect after the death of the testator.
  4. Will is ambulatory in Nature. This means it is capable of dealing with the property acquired after the date when it was made, provided, and that is, means that the property is owned by the testator until his death.
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Requirements / Validity of the Last Will and Testament

Statutory, Islamic, or customary will, may only be valid and executed when it meets some requirements.

The following are the important requirements regardless of the nature of the will.

  1. The testator must be of full age (not child).
  2. The testator must be of sound mind at the time he makes a Will.
  3. It must be written unless it is an Oral Will.
  4. It must be free from ambiguity.
  5. It must be voluntarily made. A will, will not be accepted if made under force, fraud, mistake, or other influences.
  6. It must be witnessed; in case of statutory Will at least two witnesses.
  7. It must be signed by the maker in the presence of the witness who will also sign.

NB: if the Will does meet those conditions will be considered as defective and invalid will.

How to write a Last Will and Testament

The following is how to write a last will and testament perfectly;

Use Proper terminology

Your will must be shown that it was voluntarily made by you. You must use proper terminology to express your wishes.

For example, use REVOKE to revoke all previous testamentary dispositions if that is your intention; APPOINT which deals with the appointment of executors and trustees; I BEQUEATH which sets out any gifts of specific articles which you wish to make, and GIVE, DEVISE BEQUEATH AND APPOINT which deals with any remaining property you may have to dispose of

Present your will properly

Your Will should be laid out in paragraphs numbered in sequence after a first paragraph which confirms the nature of the document (will or codicil) and states your name, address, and occupation or, if you are a woman without an occupation, your status (married woman, widow, etc.).

The first words of each paragraph should be in block capitals and underlined. All names should be set out in full, in capitals, and underlined.

Include all of  your properties

For better estate planning, here you must write a list of anything of value. It may include personal assets including houses, land, shares, bonds, vehicles, jewels, all kinds of bank accounts, antiques.

Appraise the value of all your assets, so you have an idea of your net worth. This is important in a country that has an inheritance tax or estate duty/estate tax.

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Appoint Executor

An executor is a person to whom the power of implementing your desires is vested.

You may choose one or more persons. Also, you must consider stating the alternate executor in case the one you choose is unable or unwilling to serve that position.

You may state the amount which will be paid to the executor for what he will do. Usually, it is wise to have two executors who you can trust, are honest, and are capable of executing your Will consider obtaining their concern before finalizing your will.

Further, you may appoint the guardian of your children if you have a child or children below the age of 18.

Patrick Hill, Head of Legal,  Trust, and hill shared a great guide on how to appoint an executor, you may read it here

Select Beneficiary and allocate their shares

In your Will, you must include your entire beneficiary. These are people who would benefit from your assets. Usually, they are family, relatives, and/or friends, but it may include charity organizations and others.

You must specifically decide on the share and assets allocation of every beneficiary. To prevent quarrels you may include reasons for your decisions or allocations

You may read this guide from to learn more about how to select your beneficiary.

Include Funeral arrangements

When necessary you may include a clause on where and how you should be buried.

NB: to make sure your Will complies with all requirements, where necessary consider hiring a lawyer to help you draft it.

You may learn how to find a good lawyer here

What you should do after writing a  Will and Testament?

After writing your will you should Decide Where to Keep Your Will. It is worth noting that your Will can only be executed once found. Make sure you keep your will at an easily accessible place/location but your executor or your loved ones.

You can consider keeping your will at your attorney Firm, Bank safe locker, or home safe locker or register it at a relevant authority.

Advantages of writing a last Will and testament

The following are the advantages of writing a last will and testament before you die;

To Distribute Your Properties (Both Current And Future) As You Wish

With a Will, you can direct where and how your properties will be distributed after your death.

For Example, you may wish to distribute some of your properties to charity organizations. If you died intestate (without a Will) your properties would be distributed against your wishes.

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To Voluntarily Choose a Good Executor

With a Will, you can choose the person to administer your estate and distribute it according to your instructions but if you die without a Will that person will be chosen on your behalf.

To Choose A Guardian of Your Children

Through a will, you can appoint who will take care of your children in case you and their other Parents both passed away.

With Will, you live rich, and you die poor

It Will allows you to distribute all your property while you’re living although that distribution will take effect once you die. Proper allocation of your properties minimizes the chances of conflicts once you are gone.

Checklist for writing a will and last testament

Information about Testator

  1. Full Name of Testator
  2. Age- to determine if  he has capacity
  3. Whether of sound mind
  4. Address of Testator
  5. The religion of Testator-may determine what proportion of the property may be disposed of by will
  6. Marital status
  7. If married, type of marriage i.e customary/civil/religious/polygamous
  8. If the Testator has any children

Details about Testetor’s properties

  1. Any property owned solely by Testator e.g houses, land, bank accounts, shares, cars, any other property
  2. Property owned jointly with another/marital property
  3. Details of any insurance policies taken out by the Testator and their beneficiaries
  4. Any businesses owned
  5. Any debts, liabilities, encumbrances on owned properties

Details of intended beneficiaries

  1. Spouse: full name
  2. Children: full names and ages
  3. Others: names and addresses

Details of any specific gifts

  1. Whether the Testator wants to give any special item to a beneficiary
  2. Whether the Testator wants to make any gifts to charities/societies
  3. Who is to receive the rest of the property i.e residual legatee

Details of executor(s)/Trustee(s)

  1. Family dynamics so that can make the appropriate choice as to executor(s)
  2. Names and addresses of executor(s)
  3. Alternative executor
  4. Find out if proposed executors will be willing to act as executors

Details of Guardian to take of Children

  1. names and addresses

Any wishes to funeral arrangements

  1. A place to be buried
  2. Who to attend
  3. What must be done before buried
  4. What must be done after buried

Details of witnesses

  1. full names
  2. addresses
  3. age- to determine the capacity
  4. relationship to Testator- may determine the capacity of witness depending on the law applicable

Where to keep the will

  1. attorney’s office
  2. Bank locker
  3. Private


See a free sample of last will and testament here

Isack Kimaro

Editor-in-chief and founder of Holder of Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) from Mzumbe University and Post Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the Law school of Tanzania. Lawyer by profession and blogger by passion.

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