Of course, it is possible to prepare your own will—just as it is possible for you to stitch up your own forehead with a needle and thread instead of going to all the trouble to go see a doctor, meaning that while it is possible it may not be advisable.
Would you rather look into a mirror and stitch up your cut, hoping against hope that you actually sort of know what you are doing and that the resulting scar won’t be too noticeable—or let someone who actually does know what they are doing stitch you up?
The difference between a cut on your forehead and a DIY will, may be that with the cut you will have to see the result of your DIY handiwork every time you look in the mirror.
When you opt for a DIY will, it is your loved ones who will be forced to deal with the problems, potentially for years to come.
How Hard Could a DIY Will Be?
You may think to yourself—how hard can a DIY will be?
After all, you just need to find a form on the Internet, and type up your instructions on how you would like your worldly goods distributed after your death.
Perhaps you will be one of the lucky few, and your DIY will may actually do exactly what you want it to do.
Or, perhaps you be one of the thousands of others who might actually “turn over in your grave” if you could see what troubles your DIY will caused those you love the most.
Rules for Wills are Very Different from State to State
Since every state has its own rules as far as wills go, the difficulties associated with a DIY will increase exponentially.
Some states allow hand-written wills, while others do not.
Some states allow oral (nuncupative) wills only from a person who is dying, others do not allow oral wills at all.
The simplest mistake in your will could potentially void the entirety of the will.
Perhaps your state requires three witness signatures from disinterested parties, but you only have two—or one of the signatures is not from a disinterested party, rather from a beneficiary.
Although this doesn’t sound like that big a deal, it can negate all your work in preparing the will.
What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Below are just a few of the many things which can go wrong in a DIY will:
Choosing an executor based on how much the person cares about you, rather than choosing an executor who has some financial smarts, at least some knowledge of your state’s laws, and someone who can stand up to family members when you have left an unpopular bequest in your will. Click here for guidance on how to choose an executor.
Leaving money to your pet in your will. This is a common mistake—you must provide for your pet’s care by leaving the money to take care of the pet to a real human being.
Placing conditions on beneficiaries. If these conditions are not spelled out with sufficient clarity, the court may find them illegal or impractical.
Confusing a Living Will with a Last Will and Testament. The place to detail instructions for your incapacitation is not in your Last Will and Testament. Any end-of-life decisions should be in your Living Will, also called an Advance Medical Directive.
Failing to designate a guardian, as well as a back-up guardian for your children in your Last Will and Testament. This is one decision you absolutely do not want to leave to the state. Perhaps the state will decide that your children should be raised by your mother, their grandmother, but perhaps your mother is very last person you would choose to raise your children. Don’t leave this decision to chance, and make sure you have a back-up guardian named in the event your first-named guardian is unable to carry out his or her duties.
Failing to properly deal with a blended family. In today’s world, blended families are almost the norm, however can add some extra issues to a will, particularly if you have children from a prior marriage, your husband has children from a prior marriage and you have children together. Everything must be spelled out concisely in situations like this, or there will almost certainly be challenges to your will.
Failing to have your will properly witnessed, according to your state’s laws.
How to Avoid DIY Mistakes
Even having a date wrong can potentially end up voiding your entire will, so if you are considering a DIY will, think that decision through carefully. The negative aspects of a DIY will can often far outweigh the benefits.
The good news is there’s an easy way to avoid these mistakes, and that is to hire a qualified attorney to handle the task.
Hiring an attorney is probably much more affordable than you think, and is certainly less painful than making any of the mistakes outlined in this article.
Click here to see a list of the affordable will writing and estate planning services we offer before you make a DIY mistake of your own.