Can I write my own will?
Notice I typed “Can I write my own will” and not “should I write my own will.” You see, yes, you can write you your own will. But the real question you should be asking yourself is SHOULD you write your own will.
Today is a hard day for Paul. He recently attended the funeral of a close friend. You see, Paul’s friend was around his age. So, Paul begins thinking about his own death.
So, Paul sits down and begins thinking perhaps he should write a will. After all, he is married, has children, investments and is getting older.
So, Paul begins talking to his friends. His friend, Richie Rich says, “You should go see my estate attorney. He can write you an excellent estate plan.” Paul’s other friend, Pete Cheapskate, pipes up and says “You don’t need to go see an attorney. I wrote my own will using an online legal drafting program.” Finally, Paul’s third friend, John Procrastinator, chimes in “Will? Who needs a will?”
Paul is now more confused than ever.
Who Is Right?
So out of his three friends, which one should the man listen to and take is advice?
I hope you did not pick John the Procrastinator! Paul knows he needs a will. Plus, his friend’s funeral reminded him that life is short.
If you answered Richie Rich, you would be correct. Sure, the man could listen to Pete Cheapskate and go on-line. After all, there are several do it yourself wills on the internet these days. But, let me ask you this, if you needed a heart transplant, would you go see a surgeon or would you go see your friend Mechanic Bob and have him perform your heart surgery in his garage? Why that’s just ludicrous you say. Why would I go see a mechanic for a heart surgery instead of a medical doctor? How would a mechanic know how to successfully perform my heart surgery?
Exactly. And yet, so many people think that they can do their own wills even though they do not have a law degree. Sure, most states allow you to write your own wills. However, when you draft a “do it yourself will” you may not meet the necessary state requirements for drafting a will. You also might not include all the relevant information you need to make sure your wishes are done. Further, you may be missing out on some tax savings information that could ease potential estate taxes.
Why Use an Estate Planning Attorney?
You see, a good estate planning attorney will meet with you to find out your unique situation. He or she will ask you about your family situation, your financial standing, your real estate holdings and business affairs. Your estate planning attorney will then talk to you about you want your assets distributed. He or she will give you suggestions for how to best accomplish your wishes and help you figure out estate tax savings strategies.
A good estate planning attorney will talk to you to learn about your unique needs. He or she will be able to point out issues you had not even considered. Plus, he or she can help you alleviate potential family disputes down the road.
A good estate planning attorney will guide you to the best way to accomplish your goals. He or she will help you provide for your loved ones after you die. Not to mention, he or she will help you decide what will happen if you become incapacitated – either physically or mentally- before you die.
A good estate planning attorney will make you feel comfortable and not be judgmental. He or she will know the right questions to ask you. That way, you can rest assured that your plan will comply with your state’s law, include your wishes and help ensure your loved ones will be taken care of when you are no longer there.
But It Costs Money!
But I can do it cheaper if I write my own will. After all, there are legal programs out there I can use, right?
Well yes. However, a do it your self legal program cannot provide you with a personalized plan.
Yes, such a program will give you boiler plate language that covers the basic issues. The problem with this approach is that everyone’s estate needs are different. There really is no such thing as a “one size will fits all.” You are unique. Your situation is unique. Why wouldn’t your will not be unique?
A good estate planning attorney does not have a one size fits all will. He or she will carefully craft out language that is specific to your individual needs. Your attorney will know exactly what questions to ask. A computer program will just ask standard boiler plate questions. Some of these questions may not even apply to your situation!
These programs will not cover tax savings issues. Nor will these programs be able to advise you whether or not you need a will or a trust.
Why would you want to take a chance that your plan may not be able to be used when you die? If you use a computer program or choose to handwrite or type your own will, this could happen.
Cost Now vs. Cost Later
So, while it may be cheaper to “do it yourself”, doing so may cost you and your heirs in the long run. Say what? I don’t understand what you are talking about here!
I will agree with you that you can do your own will much cheaper than I can do one for you. But, if you think doing your own will may not cost you later, I have to disagree.
By doing your own will, you may miss including important tax savings provisions in your will. If that happens, your heirs may wind up paying a lot of estate taxes when you die.
Further, you may fail to comply with the necessary state requirements for creating a valid will. If that happens, the court will not allow our will to be admitted. All your plans have just gone down the drain as the state will treat you and your heirs as if you had died without a will.
Or, you may forget to include a necessary power for your Executor. Now, your Executor has to get permission from the court to do so. And guess what folks, that means your Executor must file a Petition or Motion requesting that permission. Not only will the motion or petition filing cost money, your Executor may have to hire an attorney to prepare the documents for you.
So, while you may have saved money initially, your heirs may end up spending a lot more money when you die. So, why not make sure you prepare your estate plan right in the first place by hiring an estate planning attorney?
If you would not allow a mechanic to do open heart surgery on you, then you should definitely hire an estate planning attorney to draft your unique estate plan for you.
If you need help with your estate planning, contact us now.