October 26

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Should I Make a Will Without a Lawyer?

By Michael Taylor

October 26, 2020


Some people plan to make a will without a lawyer and some learn about the pros and cons before they decide. However, many people do not know where to start, and sometimes navigating the legal world can seem confusing or intimidating to some. Because of this, some may want to know how to write a will without a lawyer.

Many people think it is too complicated to make a will without a lawyer, but this is not necessarily true. Even the most complicated wills can be made by someone who is not an attorney. You may be surprised to learn that there are several ways you can make a will without a lawyer and that writing a will may be accomplished at home in a single day.

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How To Make A Will Without A Lawyer

To write a will without a lawyer, the first thing you need to do is gather all the information you need. Some examples of the information that you will need to include in a will are the names of all of the individuals that you wish to leave your property to, all of your assets, and if you want to name an executor. Be sure to make an accurate and complete list of all the assets you have and the cash value of your bank accounts. Including physical evidence of the property you own such as deeds, car titles, stock and bank account statements, receipts for jewelry or other expensive items, and so forth will not only help your loved ones transfer property easier but will prevent any of these items from being challenged and being forced to go to probate court for lack of documentation. 

Besides documentation of the assets you own, you will also need a few other documents surrounding the will itself. In order to make a will legally valid, it must be made by a competent person and made in front of witnesses who watch you sign the will. It is best for all parties involved to sign the will in front of a notary public and prepare affidavits for each person witnessing the signing of the will that they acknowledge its validity and competency. For those that want to know how to make a will without a lawyer, these witness signatures and statements are the two most crucial elements. Without these, the will would not be valid and subject to dispute in court. While some states do allow handwritten wills not witnessed by anyone, also known as holographic wills, these wills are only allowed in about half the states and are subject to more interpretation. 

Other Things To Consider

While these are the most basic elements of what is required in a will, various challenges can be brought into court after your passing that could affect your property’s distribution. To be considered valid, a will must have each of these components: that the person making the will understands it is their will, makes clauses to provide for at least one other person, and appoints an executor. While an executor is not necessarily required at the time of the drafting, doing so will bolster the will’s validity, and an executor will be appointed by the court, in any case, to manage the will if one is not named. If a will does not have these three elements, it can be considered invalid. 

Another challenge that could get some people hemmed up is having one or both witnesses as beneficiaries in the will. If this happens, the will could be considered invalid. The only way to rectify this is if the person gives up their claim to any property named to them in the will. Lastly, and the most contentious item, is the subject of mental competency and undue influence. While these two terms are separate legal definitions, they are closely related in terms of wills. 

Mental competency is your ability to make sound judgments for yourself and that you are not impaired physically or mentally. Mental competency is a legal grey area in many states, and it is imperative to fight any claims of your competency by including affidavits and possibly even mental evaluations from doctors and psychologists proving your mental fortitude at the time of the signing to discredit any claims of incompetency after your passing. On the other hand, undue influence can be caused by someone, be it a close friend or relative, that causes a person to act dramatically different than they otherwise would have acted due to a disease or mental incapacity like Alzheimer’s.

Conclusion

While it is entirely possible that you can make a will without a lawyer, it is not recommended. While seemingly simple, there are certain steps you have to take, such as affidavits, documentation, and precise wording, that must be included in or with a will to shield it from all possible disputes about its validity. As discussed previously, people may pursue claims against a will through a variety of avenues. Therefore, to protect against this, you must seek the advice of qualified legal counsel to make the best will possible. Fortunately for you, PlanningCommunity.org’s amazing team offers weekly workshops at no cost to you by qualified professionals ready to help you plan your financial future today. Find one near you today!

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