In order for your assets to be distributed according to your wishes at the time of your death, it is important that you have a valid will in place when you die. While in years past it was customary to go to your attorney to have a will drafted, there are several options available to you if you want to write your own will.
The Handwritten Will
In legal terms a handwritten will is known as a holographic will. In order for a holographic will to be valid and for the estate to be distributed according to the directives in that will a few basic criteria must be met. First, the entire will must be in the handwriting of the testator (the person making the will). A testator cannot use a fill in the blank style form and call it a holographic will. Second, the testator must have the mental capacity to create a holographic will. This requirement is the same for all types of wills and is not unique to holographic wills.
Holographic wills are not recognized in every state. Some of the states that do recognize holographic wills require that the wills be witnessed and other states do not have a witness requirement.
The Do it Yourself Will
Today it is easier than ever to draft a detailed will and testament without the expense of an attorney. For example, you could use an online form that asks you certain questions that you answer. Then, you can simply print your will and have it witnessed and notarized according to the laws in your state. Of course, you can also draft your will and seek attorney review which will be important in certain instances.
When to Seek Attorney Review
While the do it yourself option and the holographic will are legally acceptable options, you should know when to seek the help of your attorney. For example, if you have an estate that you estimate will be over one million dollars in value at the time of your death then it may important to seek the counsel of an estate planning attorney who can help you legally avoid costly estate taxes. Similarly, if you have complex family relationships or if you decide to cut out a close relative (such as a child) then it may be important to speak to an attorney who can make sure that your intentions will be carried out. If you have any doubt about either the contents of the will or its validity then it is recommended that you seek the counsel of an attorney.
If you do decide to seek the advice of an attorney, you may be able to save money on your legal fees by drafting the will yourself and having the attorney review it rather than having the attorney take the time to interview you and draft your will for you.
Drafting your own will can be financially prudent. However, you need to make sure that you are using a good online form, using a reputable do it yourself kit or, that you are following all the rules applicable to holographic wills so that your intentions will be honored at the time of your death.
The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.