Writing your will without a lawyer: Is it possible?

by Krantcents · 24 comments

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Everyone needs a will to ensure their family and loved ones are taken care of after your death. If you have assets and personal possessions that you want to divide among specific people, it can be stated in your will. But, thanks to the Internet, you can write  your own will without hiring an attorney. An attorney can be very expensive, and writing your own will is cost-effective.

If all your assets and possessions are straightforward, writing a will can be very simple. However, you must ensure that you comply with the laws of your state pertaining to wills and testaments. For do-it-yourself wills, you can either type it out yourself are use an online company like Legalzoom that specializes in legal documents.

Here is what you need to do to write you own will.

1.        Find out about the laws in your state

There are some states that fall under the Uniform Probate Code, but there are others that do not. You will need to do some research about the laws for wills and testaments in your state. Find out how many witnesses you need, the age requirement for writing a will, and any other requirements to your will. You can find all this on the internet page of your state’s court service.

2.        Make a list

Make a list naming all your assets and possessions you want to leave to your family and friends. You can list house, property, money, and possessions. You can write the name of the person you want it to go to beside that item. Make copies of this list and review it to make sure you haven’t left anything and anyone out.

3.        Appoint an executor for your will

You need to choose someone who will act as an executor for your will. This person will have the responsibility of making sure that your wishes are carried out after your death. Choose a reliable person, someone you know to be fair and trustworthy. Before you ask the person, check the laws of your state for the requirements of an executor, and if this person meets those requirements, you can go ahead and ask him/her. If he/she is unsure if they will be able to take up the responsibility, you choose a backup too.

4.        Create your will

If you are creating your will through an online program, read the instructions and fill in the form and they will write your will and send it to you. If you are doing it yourself, you need to make sure of certain things. Comply with the laws of the state with regard t the format, content, and structure of the will. Certain states only accept typed wills and will reject handwritten wills. To avoid problems later, make sure you check up on all the laws properly and comply with them. All your witnesses must be present when you sign your will and get them also to sign the will.

This is all it takes to write your own will. However, you need to do your homework well. Find out properly about all the laws of the state and follow these points and you will have a legal will ready in no time.

Photo by:  Ktylerconk

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John@MoneyPrinciple January 27, 2013 at 3:30 pm

Hmm. We have wills but need to organise the house so that people can find them if we pop off!

Krantcents January 27, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Another solution is you designate someone (executor) responsible to take care of things. It should be someone who you can trust, but also someone who might know you passed on.

My Financial Independence Journey January 27, 2013 at 4:20 pm

Being on the younger end of the age spectrum, will writing is not something that I have thought of for myself. However, this is a conversation that my parents are having with my grandparents.

Since I’ve always had very little, I’ve never really thought about making a will for myself. But as my portfolio increases, a will may be worth looking into, so that my savings gets distributed as I would like should I pass away unexpectedly.

Krantcents January 27, 2013 at 6:11 pm

I think the first time I thought about a will was in my thirties. I had assets (home, rental property etc) and a family. It motivated my wife and I to prepare our wills.

Nunzio Bruno January 27, 2013 at 7:58 pm

You can totally do this but you should definitely have a professional look it over. That way will save you money because you’ll do the work and make sure that it will stand in the event of estate disputes.

Krantcents January 27, 2013 at 8:31 pm

Very true! Most wills are fairly simplistic though and do not need much mre than your desires or intentions.

Tackling Our Debt January 28, 2013 at 6:50 am

I keep putting this task off. I bought the will kits and ours will be very straight forward except for the point of dealing with our pets if we should both go at the same time. We are going to setup a trust and we have a designated person that would take care of them for us. We will have to get our docs signed by a notary as well.

Krantcents January 28, 2013 at 6:56 am

You definitely need a will if you have accumulated assets and have heirs. In your case, you want to take care of your pets.

John S @ Frugal Rules January 28, 2013 at 9:12 am

We got our wills done about two years ago. Having little ones and starting to accrue some assets it became clear that it was time to do so. We ended up going through an attorney though as we wanted to make sure it was all done correctly and we had all our bases covered. He actually is a friend of a friend and was quite helpful in pointing out several things we had not thought of.

Krantcents January 28, 2013 at 9:29 am

Sometimes you need that objective person to ask the right questions.

Kathleen, Frugal Portland January 28, 2013 at 11:29 am

What happens if you don’t have a will? Let’s say, hypothetically, I don’t. No big deal, I only have a houseplant that needs my attention. Where do my assets go? The same place I named my IRA to go?

Krantcents January 28, 2013 at 1:08 pm

If you die without a will they distribute the assets based on Succession Act 1965. Your assets will be distributed based on that act. If you want your assets distributed differently, you need to make a will.

STEVEN J. FROMM, ATTORNEY, LL.M. (TAXATION) February 6, 2013 at 5:59 am

Actually the laws of intestate succession of the state where you are resident at your death controls your probate assets. Thins like your IRA or a life insurance policy pass to the named beneficiary and trump anything that the will states.

Krantcents February 6, 2013 at 6:59 am

Thanks for your information. I think a lot depends on the circumstances whether doing your own will makes sense or not.

Integrator January 28, 2013 at 6:46 pm

I don’t believe that you need a formal will with appointed executors to be an effective instrument for where your property will be disposed (although that does make it easier). A basic instruction for how you want your assets to be sufficient, thats signed by you. i haven’t given thought to a will yet, but with a young family, its something that I need to make a priority. It does bring home the truth that we all have to leave this place sooner or later.

Krantcents January 28, 2013 at 7:30 pm

I don’t think it is a question of need, but more of doing it right. If you do not have an executor, it means someone eeds to locate the will an possibly place in probate.

Kim@Eyesonthedollar January 28, 2013 at 7:58 pm

We did a will several years ago on Legal zoom. I do feel we need to revisit it and make sure everything is still in place like we want. That is on the list to get done before summer.

I think anyone with minor children need to have some sort of will and make it know who you want to care for your children. I think having people fight over them because you didn’t specify would be terrible.

Krantcents January 28, 2013 at 8:17 pm

I agree, you don’t want problems after your death. I would add you need a will if you have assets too.

Untemplater January 28, 2013 at 11:56 pm

Lawyers are so darn expensive. I made my own will without one and am glad I got it out of the way and now have peace of mind.

Krantcents January 29, 2013 at 6:54 am

A simple will will cover most people to distribute their assets.

Squirrelers January 29, 2013 at 5:20 pm

This is something I’ve wrestled with for a while. I just feel more comfortable having a professional look things through and be able to answer some very specific questions. Admittedly, that can come at a steep cost though.

Krantcents January 29, 2013 at 5:27 pm

I fully understand! A simple will is appropriate for people who have a simple estate. Perhaps very little assets and no children.

STEVEN J. FROMM, ATTORNEY, LL.M. (TAXATION) February 6, 2013 at 5:56 am

While this can be done the real question is should it be done. I must say as a practicing estate attorney for over 35 years generally this is bad advice for many reasons. Here are a few but by all means not all reasons to not try this on your own.
This is just not as easy as it looks and the facts of each situation matter. Each situation is unique and there is more to doing this than just a will. How does one coordinate assets not controlled by a will, items such as life insurance, IRAs, retirement plans, joint assets, etc. Will substitutes raise problems.
For those who want more on these issues they can read some of my estate planning articles at my website or blog.

Krantcents February 6, 2013 at 7:47 am

You raise some interesting issues, I will leave it up to each individual to decide what should be done.

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