Can I Write My Own Last Will & Testament?

by April Kohl
Although many states allow handwritten wills, a typed and signed will provides greater clarity.

Although many states allow handwritten wills, a typed and signed will provides greater clarity.

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At its most basic, a last will and testament is simply a document indicating what you want done with your property, any children or dependents you have, and your remains. Although many people choose to employ an attorney to draft, or at least advise on drafting, their will, this is not required by law. You are free to write your own last will and testament, but there can be problems in doing so.

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Considerations

When writing your will, it is important to consider who will act as executor. This is a position of great responsibility as the probate court will often appoint this person to distribute your assets according to your instructions. You should therefore appoint someone you trust to do the job with accuracy and also with fidelity.

Requirements

Each state has its own requirements regarding who can make a will and how it should be presented. Some states allow handwritten wills with signatures and witnesses, while others have allowed them even without a signature. The number of witnesses required also varies from state to state, as does the age at which a person can make a will.

Warning

Wills that do not fulfill all the requirements of the state you were resident in at the time the will was created run the risk of being declared invalid by the courts. Similarly, wills that attempt to dispose of assets not under the control of the deceased, and therefore not under the control of your estate after your death, may be ruled wholly or partially invalid.

Prevention

Because there are so many pitfalls when it comes time to write your own last will and testament, consulting an attorney in your state can be beneficial. However, if this is not possible or desirable, familiarizing yourself with state regulations and laws on wills will help you avoid any potential problems that could otherwise prevent your will from being accepted in probate court.