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  • Northern Virginia Trusts & Estates

Can I Write My Own Will?

Even if you are a firm believer in do-it-yourself projects, you probably realize your limitations on some things, and hire a professional to do the job. While doing some things on your own can certainly save you money, when there is a chance that a mistake on the project could result in significant cost, it is usually better to allow a person who is trained, skilled and experienced to do the job.

Writing a will is one of the things that is almost always better left to a trained legal professional. You can, of course, find all sorts of DIY wills on the Internet, but guess what? You can also find out how to remove your own appendix on the Internet, yet the vast majority of people know better than to attempt that. There are any number of mistakes—some of them quite serious—which can be made on a DIY will.

Why Do People End Up Preparing Their Own Will?

The number one reason most people believe they should prepare their own will is money. There is a perception, that having a will prepared by an attorney is extremely costly. While will preparation will cost you money, it is also likely to save you—or your heirs—a considerable amount of money, time and aggravation in the long run.

A second reason some people prepare their own wills is time. Many people believe having an attorney prepare their will involves a huge chunk of time, on more than one occasion. In fact, if you have your wishes clearly organized, and have all the required information, your attorney may be able to complete your will after a fairly brief conversation with you. Your time expenditure could be more if your estate is particularly complex, but for a simple will, you may not actually have to spend much time at all in your attorney’s office.

Another reason some people decide to prepare their own will is from a misperception that only the very wealthy need an attorney to prepare their will. If you have virtually any assets, such as a car, a home and a bank account, and you want those assets to go to a specific person or persons upon your death, you need a professionally prepared will.

Common Errors Found in DIY Wills

A will must be error-free, meaning if you make a single mistake in your will, or your wishes are simply not made clear enough, you might as well have skipped it altogether. Remember, you will not be there to explain your wishes or make corrections to your will. Some of the most common errors found among wills which were not prepared by an experienced attorney include the following:

  1. Neglecting to tell anyone where your will is kept;

  2. Neglecting to sign the will;

  3. Getting a crucial date wrong in the will;

  4. Neglecting to update a will, once it is prepared;

  5. Adding or updating amendments in an improper manner which effectively nullifies those additions;

  6. Using vague or non-specific wording;

  7. Neglecting to account for the possibility that you outlive a named beneficiary, or

  8. Handwriting your will, unless it is allowed in your state.

  9. Does not include state specific language

  10. Is not notarized or witnessed properly

  11. Is not a ‘self proving’ will

The modern families many of us have can also be difficult to take into account in a will, unless you have experience doing so. There are many blended families, ex-spouses, step-children or other special conditions which increase the chances that your wishes will not be carried out in the manner you anticipated. Further, DIY wills don’t always name contingent beneficiaries, executors or guardians, or set up trusts for minors or incapacitated beneficiaries. In the end, estate planning is simply not an area for DIY. Just as you would certainly see a dentist if you had a painful tooth, seeing a qualified estate planning attorney who is very familiar with your state’s probate, trust and estate tax laws simply makes good sense.

Contact us today to learn more about preparing your will.

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