How to Make a Will: 7 Steps

By Anna Davies · June 08, 2023 · 8 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

How to Make a Will: 7 Steps

It’s easy to put off writing a will. The process can seem complicated, not to mention expensive. And, if you’re single and don’t own a house, you may also feel like a will is unnecessary.

But writing a will actually doesn’t have to take a lot of time, or money. And even if you don’t have a lot of assets, having a will can give you peace of mind that your preferences will be followed.

Here’s what you need to know to write your own will.

What Is a Will?

Simply defined, a will (also known as a last will and testament) is a legal document that details what you want to be done with your possessions after your death. Your will may also identify a guardian if you have young children, as well as an executor, the person who will carry out the terms of your will.

What a will doesn’t cover is any asset in which you’ve designated beneficiaries. Named beneficiaries override a will. For example, if you designate all your property to go to your parents but you have a life insurance policy in which your brother is listed as a beneficiary, your brother will get the life insurance payout while your parents would get the rest of your assets.

There are other important documents people may create at the same time as they create a will, and are all a part of an estate plan. These include:

•   Living will If you were to become incapacitated, what are your preferences as far as medical treatments? This document legally outlines your wishes.

•   Power of attorney If you are unable to make decisions for yourself, who has the authority to make those decisions on your behalf? Power of attorney may be divided into medical power of attorney — the person who has power to make medical decisions for you — and financial power of attorney. Both can be the same person.

•   Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order This document communicates that, in the event of your heart no longer beating or you no longer being able to breathe independently, that you do not want doctors to perform any life-saving action.

•   Organ and tissue donation If you were to die, would you want your organs and tissue to be donated? Having a form explicitly stating your wishes can make it easier for loved ones to fulfill your desires, instead of guessing what they think you would have wanted.

Not all documents need to be filled out at once. For example, some people may only fill out a DNR order if they have a terminal illness or are unlikely to recover.

Recommended: Important Estate Planning Documents to Know

Dying Without a Will

Even if you think you own nothing of great value and you’re still working on money management, chances are you do your own things that matter to your family. And if you die without a will, your loved ones may become involved in a complicated court process that will freeze your assets until state inheritance laws are followed.

If you’re single and die without a will, your assets will likely go to your closest blood relatives, which may be your parents or siblings. While this may be the preferred choice for some people, having a will allows you to earmark certain assets (or pets) for a charity or close friends.

It’s also a final chance to communicate your wishes to your loved ones and allows your loved ones to avoid a potentially drawn-out court process.

Dying without a will can become even more problematic if you have children. If you die without a will, the court will appoint a guardian. And, while the court attempts to choose a guardian with the best interest of children in mind, that choice may not be the same choice you would make.

How To Create a Will

Below are simple steps that can help you make a will.

1. Choosing How You’ll Create Your Will

For people who own a lot of property or assets, and may want to set up trusts as a way to minimize taxes and ensure their heirs follow their wishes, it can be well worth the investment to hire an attorney who can walk them through the basics of estate planning.

However, online templates and will-creating platforms can be sufficient for many people. These DIY options can be much less expensive than working directly with an attorney and are legal and binding provided they are signed appropriately. Some of these online options are even free.

Recommended: How to Write a Will Online in 8 Steps

2. Making a List of Your Assets

In order to leave property to your loved ones, you need to know exactly what you have. So it can be a good idea to start by making a list of all your significant assets, including jewelry, artwork, real estate/land, cars, and bank accounts that don’t name a beneficiary.

If you have retirement funds and/or life insurance, you don’t need to write out who is going to receive the proceeds, as these require naming beneficiaries within the account or policy.

Get up to $300 when you bank with SoFi.

Open a SoFi Checking and Savings Account with direct deposit and get up to a $300 cash bonus. Plus, get up to 4.60% APY on your cash!


3. Being Specific About Who Gets What

Once you have a list of all your assets, you can decide who you would like to get what. Here, it’s helpful to be as specific as possible, such as using full names and being detailed in describing the assets.

4. Considering Guardianship

For many parents, including pet parents, guardianship can be the most fraught element of their will. This can be a decision that takes time.

For example, some parents love the bond their children have with their grandparents but worry about how aging parents would handle the physical stressors of raising young kids. Other parents may wish to appoint a sister or brother who already has children, so their own kids can be brought up alongside other children. There is no wrong answer, but thinking through contingencies and what-ifs can be helpful in making the most informed decision.

It can also be a good idea to discuss the idea of guardianship with the intended recipient. Maybe a single uncle loves your kids but is uncomfortable taking on the role of parent, or maybe grandparents have similar reservations as to their fitness for taking on the role.

Recommended: New Parent’s Guide to Setting Up a Will

5. Choosing an Executor

Naming an executor for your will is an important choice. This is the person who will make sure that the wishes laid out in your will are followed. The duties of an executor include paying any remaining bills and debts, distributing your assets, and handling probate (transferring the titling of assets).

If you wish, you can name more than one person as an executor of your will.

6. Signing Your Will and Storing it in a Safe Place

A will is only legal when it is made legal — that is, printed and signed according to instructions. You generally need to sign a will in the presence of at least two witnesses. In some cases (such as if you’re using a document called a “self-proving affidavit” to simplify the process of going through probate court), your signature must be notarized as well.

You’ll also want to make sure you keep copies as directed. Many people keep a physical copy in a safe place, as well as a digital copy. Some might also share their will with their executor, or tell them where it is so it can be easily and quickly accessed if you were to die unexpectedly.

7. Updating Your Will as Appropriate

As your life changes, you may need to return to your will and update it. This could be due to:

•   Asset changes. Buying a house, opening an investment portfolio, and other financial moves may lead you to revisit your will.

•   Relationship changes. If you get married or have a serious partner, you may want to change your will to reflect that.

•   The addition of children or pets to your family.

•   The death or incapacitation of an appointed guardian.

It can also be good practice to assess your will after every life change, or every year or so. To update a will, you can either write what’s called a codicil (essentially a document stating any updates, written and signed by witnesses) or create a new will, depending on the extent of the changes.

The Takeaway

While the topic of death and end-of-life wishes can seem overwhelming, creating a will can be relatively straightforward. And, thanks to the many online templates now available, you can often make your own will for a relatively low flat fee, or even for free.

The process of writing a will typically includes coming up with a list of assets, choosing where you’d like each asset to go, as well as choosing a guardian (if you have children) and an executor of your will.

While you may not think you need a will, having one (and updating it as appropriate) can be a gift to your loved ones when they may need it most.

As you get your affairs in order, you may also want to get your financial life organized. One simple step that can help is opening an online bank account, such as SoFi Checking and Savings. With SoFi Checking and Savings, you can spend, save, and earn a competitive annual percentage yield (APY) — all in one place. Plus, you won’t pay any annoying account fees.

Better banking is here with SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall.* Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.


SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
The SoFi Bank Debit Mastercard® is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A., pursuant to license by Mastercard International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.


SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a recurring deposit of regular income to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government benefit payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, or are non-recurring in nature (e.g., IRS tax refunds), do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

As an alternative to direct deposit, SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

This article is not intended to be legal advice. Please consult an attorney for advice.

SOBK0623001

TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender