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Making Sense Out of Dollars

Will It?

Joel Lerner, Columnist
Posted 1/29/21

Part 4 of 12

HOW DO YOU BEGIN TO DRAW UP A WILL?

Let me start by urging that you stay away from pre-written wills or “how-to” books encouraging you to draw up your own will. Use an …

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Making Sense Out of Dollars

Will It?

Posted

Part 4 of 12

HOW DO YOU BEGIN TO DRAW UP A WILL?

Let me start by urging that you stay away from pre-written wills or “how-to” books encouraging you to draw up your own will. Use an attorney. Your will and your estate are too important to fall into the do-it-yourself category.

Yet I know that there are younger people reading this column who feel that at their age, they can draw up their own document. I do not agree but let me cover this “do it by yourself” topic. If you are under the age of 50 and do not have much of an estate, you can probably get by with only a basic will drawn up by yourself.

Do-it-yourself wills consist of several fill-in-the-blank forms. Some cover all bases and are easy to understand while others are confusing and missing important information. Because of this, it is important to review do-it-yourself will forms carefully before downloading or purchasing them from a retailer.

You should consider reviewing the forms with the help of an estate-planning attorney. Remember, a will is a legally binding document, so any little mistake could end up being a costly one for your family.

What Do I Look For In A Do-It-Yourself Will?

Do-it-Yourself wills must be tailored to your state because requirements for making a valid will vary from state to state. However, even if a form is tailored to your state, it may not meet your personal requirements. “Do-it-Yourself” will forms are often designed for people with very limited assets and no potential for litigation, such as a family that will go along with anything the person decides, even if it cuts out some family members.

Do-it-Yourself wills are not right for families with special circumstances, such as owning an out-of-state vacation home, having a disabled child or grandchild, or a beneficiary who has received public assistance or other forms of assistance.

Even the best do-it-yourself wills can fall short, specifically with the execution of the will. A will is not valid unless properly executed in accordance with the laws of your state of residence or the state in which it was made. Some states require three witnesses in order to validate a will.

Do-it-yourself wills might also take longer to probate because judges may question the process used in their execution. This may result in a call for witnesses to appear in court. This will create expense, delay, and additional legal bills.

If anyone challenges the will through a “will contest,” he or she will be successful if the will was not properly signed and witnessed. As stated earlier, it is important to be very careful about which resources you choose to use, make sure you understand exactly how a will must be signed and witnessed in your state, and get advice from an estate-planning attorney.

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

I wonder how the man who made the first clock knows what time it was.

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