Writing your own will is not such a good idea
Joseph L. Raad, Attorney At Law
A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client – unknown
This often-heard saying is never more true than when it comes to writing a Will. A lawyer, specifically one who specializes in estate planning, is necessary to make sure this important document is properly phrased and structured to achieve its intended goals.
I often illustrate this point with a real-life example of a Will brought to me by a man whose late wife had written (or had attempted to write) her last Will and Testament. In the Will she intended to create a trust for a minor child. I can only surmise she copied and pasted language from another Will bearing a similar bequest. The problem was not in creating the trust but rather in ending it. She failed to provide that the trust terminated when the child reached a suitable age or milestone in life. Some trusts do exist for more than one generation but clearly this was not her intent given the size of the trust and her surviving husband’s certainty the trust was to terminate when the child reached age 21. Needless to say this lack of attention to detail and unfamiliarity with writing a Will caused more problems than it solved.
This is just one example of why you should not attempt writing a Will, power of attorney, trust, or other estate planning documents. Turning to Will forms or a sample Will online usually creates problems, too.
The rules governing these instruments are very complicated, and the requirements for proper execution vary. You might be lucky enough to make a Will that sufficiently carries out your intention but if the Will is not properly executed it is not worth the paper it’s written on. I often see self-written Wills where a beneficiary is one of the two witnesses. This renders the Will null and void.
The benefits of retaining a professional estate planning attorney far outweigh the cost involved. There is more to estate planning than just writing a Will, and this is why an estate planning professional is worth every penny. Such things as making sure your beneficiary designations are properly listed, bank accounts are properly titled and even vehicles are properly registered to avoid probate are part of the estate planning process.
When it comes to estate planning, attempting to prepare your own documents is almost certainly a disaster in the making. Many people wouldn’t attempt to rewire their house yet they will entrust their life savings and the welfare of their family to a self-prepared Will. Don’t have a fool for a client.
Joseph L. Raad is Senior Counsel with Morton & Gettys Law Firm in Rock Hill, SC. He is a Certified Specialist in Estate Planning and Probate Law. He can be reached at (803) 366-3429 or firstname.lastname@example.org.