A last will and testament is initial documentation in your estate-plan and the ideal way to make your life after death desires known to friends and family members. Not having a legal will, a court and state laws establish your property allocation and minor children’s guardians—not you.
Whereas you could complete a DIY will, you need to also think about hiring a lawyer to make sure it is executable. You cannot repair a legal will after you pass away, so be sure it works while you’re still living! The following is how to evaluate whether you can create your own will using on-line forms, or if you need a lawyer.
What Is a Last Will and Testament?
A last will and testament (or simply known as a ‘will’) discloses how to allocate your assets following your passing. Your legal will is able also address other important topics such as a preference for funeral arrangements, guardians for any minor children, and caregivers for dependent children, pets, and other people that will benefit from your support.
As the one drawing up the will, you take on the role of the testator. The testator names an executor (known as a personal representative in many states). When you pass away, your executor is going to file your will in a state probate court and then executes your wishes. Individuals getting money or property from your estate are called your beneficiaries.
Do-It-Yourself vs. Lawyer: What Should You Do?
A lot of individuals take the bull by the horns and either improvise with a free will document or risk passing away intestate (not having a will). Intestacy laws prefer a surviving spouse or children, in which will not help when you are single, live in a cohabiting partnership, or have a preference that your property transfers to an association instead of family members. It’s safe to argue that everyone should have a will, even if it is only to name guardians for minor children. Subject to your circumstances, you may draw up your will on your own, but there are times you need the help of an estate planning attorney.
When You Can DIY
When you are a wage earner, don’t own any business interests, and hold many of your assets together with a spouse or other members of the family, you might only need a simple will. This kind of simplistic will is easy to compose using online forms.
Nevertheless, a will is probably the most vital document you are ever going create. Even if you discover the process to be easy, think about consulting with a lawyer so they can examine the document and make sure you did not forget, or leave out anything. Whereas you are going to pay for this service (probably by the hour), you can minimize this cost by buying a will form and estate planning bundle and following instructions completely prior to your appointment.
When You Should Hire A Lawyer
There are situations in which DIY will probably fail or potentially make your probate process more complicated and harder on the ones that love you. Think about hiring a lawyer if you are facing any of the following:
- Your estate is at risk of federal estate tax or could be worth more than $2 million at the time of your passing
- There is a high probability of family dispute and a will challenge
- You’re a business owner or own more than half of a business
- You’re newly divorced or have children from a prior relationship
- You necessitate special needs trusts and/or guardians for minor children or other dependents
- You want to put in place a living or testamentary trust to postpone payments to your children until they make it to a specific age
When you experience any of these complicated situations, it could cost more for a lawyer to tidy up your drafted estate planning paperwork than for them to begin all over and personalize a will for you. At least, schedule a consultation with a lawyer prior to you starting to draft documents to make an educated decision.
Create Your Own Legal Will
If you opt to make a will utilizing forms, remember that you are required to follow instructions and be meticulous, so it is complete and executable.
Legal Will Requirements
Begin your will drafting process by guarantee you meet legal provisions. Particular requirements differ between states, but a lot of them require at the minimum, the following:
- Age and mental ability: A testator are required to be at least 18 years old and of sound mental health. In many states, you can create a legal will when you are emancipated legally or underage when you begin military service. “Sound mental health” shows you are mindful of the will’s content and its repercussions.
- Testamentary intent: Your legal will is required to prove testamentary intent, signifying it addresses your postmortem wishes. Many are going to start with something like “This is my last will and testament.”
- Signatures: You are required to sign your will. Videos, text messages, or other communication showing your willfulness to sign is not enough. Signatures can comprise an “X” (if you physically cannot sign) and verbally directing another individual to sign on your behalf at the time you conclude the will. Take note the person signing the will for you can’t serve as the witness to your will.
- Witnesses: States have a requirement of 2 or 3 witnesses to a will. This requirement can also include a witness testimony recognized by a notary public. Witnesses are unable to be beneficiaries of your estate.
After you choose to make your will, use these steps:
Buy a Document
You do not want to take the gamble of using a free legal will document. These documents seldom follow state laws, and they do not come with guidelines or directions. Alternatively, buy a state specific will document from a credible source.
Choose an executor
Your executor guarantees your final wishes take place and your beneficiaries receive the property you’ll allocate to them using your will. Decide on a trustworthy individual that understands your circumstance. A lot of individuals choose their spouse, their partner, an adult child, or close personal friend to take on this duty. Decide on a successor executor if your initial choice is unable serve in that role at the time of your passing.
Determine who is going to benefit from the estate. Your beneficiaries can comprise of your spouse, your partner, any pets, any children, charitable organizations, or members of your family. If you do not name beneficiaries, the court establishes who is going to receive your property.
Plan for your dependents
If you presently have minor children or adult dependent children, don’t forget about their care in the future. Specify money or property for their care and decide on a willful and competent guardian. You are also able to do the same for animal pals as well. Name successor guardians in the event your initial choice is unable to fulfill this role down the road.
Unless you want to transfer a particular item to a beneficiary (e.g., your vehicle to your oldest), you do not inevitably have to list your assets in the legal will. Nevertheless, your executor is going to probably liquidate your assets throughout probate and distribute revenue to beneficiaries. It assists your executor in including a list of your present assets and update it when you purchase or sell them. Insert homes, vacation homes, vehicles, financial institution accounts, investments, and valuable personal belongings such as antiquities, jewelry, or paintings in the list.
Once your will begins probate, your executor will send out notices to your creditors so that they can file a claim towards your estate. Make this task easier by including a list of present mortgages, vehicle or personal loans, credit card debts, tax debts owed, and other debts owed.
Execute the will
After completion, go over your will for exactness and think about having a lawyer do the same. When it fulfills your expectations, sign the legal will in the presence of 2 or 3 witnesses (subject to the laws in your state’s) and a notary public. Witnesses are unable to be beneficiaries of your estate, and they are required to see you sign it. The notary public witnesses each of the signatures and adds their acceptance making the will official.
Retain the original in a safeguarded place, like in a safety deposit box or fire-proof safe in your home office. Create copies and hand them over to your executor and beneficiaries. Tell your executor where you have any keys to a safety deposit box or the combination to your safe.
Modifying Your Legal Will
You can modify your will should your assets change, you get remarried, or any other circumstance demanding a change. There are 2 options for modifying a last will and testament:
- Codicil: A codicil alters your legal will. For instance, when your initial executor becomes distant or dies, a codicil will allow you to appoint a new one. Likewise to a will, a codicil is required to be signed, witnessed, and notarized.
- New will: Creating a new will devoids all previous wills. Be sure that your new will includes a provision to that effect prior to you using it.
Usually, a codicil works best for insignificant changes (such as changing an executor or fixing a typographic error). For significant life changes, such as a divorce, re-marriage, additional children, or the sale or purchase of a business, it is better to create a new will.
Locating an Estate Planning Lawyer
This post addresses vital details about creating your own last will and testament. But your will is probably the most important document you are going to create, and you need prepare it properly. Think about talking with an estate planning lawyer near you to review your drafted will or assist you in planning your estate. The same law firm is also able to help you with other estate planning documents such as a living will, POA, and living trust.
Jocelyn Mackie, J. D. (2021, March 30). Do your own will (how to make a will without a lawyer). Findlaw. https://www.findlaw.com/estate/wills/do-your-own-will-how-to-make-a-will-without-a-lawyer.html.
Estate Planning Attorney in Phoenix, Arizona
Here at Ogborne Law, we are proud to include estate planning among our services. Your estate planning attorney will work closely with you to draw up all the documents you’ll need to communicate your wishes to the court. We’ll take the time to answer all of your questions and guide you through this important process. If you’re ready to start your consultation with Ogborne Law, visit our Estate Planning Consultation request page.
There are so many aspects to consider in estate planning, and we haven’t even touched on those individuals who own a business!
You’ve worked hard for your life, and you need to protect it. You owe it to your family and your legacy to take care of planning now.
Contact Ogborne Law to schedule your estate-planning session.