In the day and age of the Internet and do it yourself videos, you may be tempted to create your Will yourself.  While a do it yourself Will is preferable to having no Will at all, proceed with caution.  Here are some interesting facts about wills as well as some pros and cons about taking your Will into your own hands.

The benefits of a do it yourself Will

It’s much less expensive.  You can go online, fill out a form and have a self-completed Will for under $200.  It’s also fairly easy.  If you know what you want, there are manuals, kits and even computer programs all ready to walk you through the process of making your own Will.

Taking your Will into your own hands can also be much faster.  You don’t have to go through the process of scheduling appointments with an attorney and explaining in detail what you want.  You can simply put your wishes down on paper using your chosen program and get your Will created.

The do it yourself route may be appropriate for a simple, straightforward and no exceptions estate document that leaves everything to one person or to a charity.  It may be appropriate if you have very limited assets.    If you have even a few complications or deviations from the norm, you may want to consider working with an experienced estate attorney. ()

The downsides of a do it yourself Will

Unfortunately, there are many downsides to the do it yourself approach.  If your estate or wishes are complex, a premade form simply may not be enough to adequately address your situation.  For instance, the do it yourself route is not typically adequate for complicated situations such as blended families.  If you or your spouse have children from multiple marriages you should seriously consider obtaining legal assistance.  It is important to cross your t’s and dot your i’s so your Will won’t be challenged.

The risks are high.  If your Will is not executed, i.e. signed, properly or you miss a detail, the entire document could be invalid.  If your Will is not properly witnessed or if you make amendments incorrectly, this can invalidate the entire document.  An inaccurate document can create headaches for your loved ones and beneficiaries and tie up your estate in probate for years.

Do it yourself Wills often have cookie cutter forms that may be out of date.  With any legal document, the wording of the document can directly impact its validity.  If you use an out dated form to make your own Will, it could be ineffective and worse, not legally valid.  Also, the cookie cutter, standard form may not take into account your specific circumstances, making it hard for you to communicate exactly what you want on paper.  If you have any situation outside of the very simplest, consider hiring legal help.  If you do decide to do it yourself, carefully examine the paperwork or software and make sure it is it up to date and compliant with your state’s current laws.

If you don’t execute a do it yourself Will perfectly, it may be the same as having no Will at all.  If you don’t create any estate planning documents, at the time of your death your estate goes to probate and is distributed according to the law of intestacy.  Basically, if you don’t plan for the disposition of your assets, the state steps in and decides for you based on state law.  Under the intestacy laws of Arizona, your estate will go to your spouse, children, or closest living relative, depending on your circumstances.

When You Should Bring In Expert Help

If you have even a few complications or deviations from the norm, you may want to consider having an experienced estate planning attorney prepare your Will.  If you have a high net worth estate or property in different states, don’t do a do it yourself Will.  If you have a blended family or are recently divorced, talk to an expert.  If you worry that your family will battle over your estate, an attorney can help you put safeguards in place.  If you have a special needs child, be sure to talk to an experienced estate planning attorney.

While do it yourself Wills can be tempting, carefully consider your needs.  Estate planning and proper document drafting and signing are too important to leave to chance.  If you have anything remotely complicated, please consider working with an experienced attorney. Law Offices of Paula Hannah, PLC would be happy to walk you through all of your options, explain what proper estate planning can do for you and your loved ones, and help you create a legally valid Will that truly reflects your wishes and that is executed to the highest standards of Arizona state law.