Can I prepare my own will? Do I need a lawyer?

Can I draft my own will? Do I need a lawyer?

The answer to both of the above questions is yes. However, my mom used to say, "just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should." Yes, you can create your own will. (Just like you can shoot yourself in the foot or jump off a cliff.)  But the better question to ask is, should you create your own will? and if so, in the famous words of Clint Eastwood, "do [you] feel lucky?"

As with most things in life, it's not what you know that gets you into trouble but what you think you know but don't. Before I became an estate planning attorney, I worked as an appellate court staff attorney and judicial law clerk and later practiced health and environmental law. When our first child was little and we were going overseas, my husband and I decided it was time to get wills. Although I was already a practicing attorney, I decided there was no way I was going to experiment with my family's future by trying to write our own wills. Instead, we went to an estate planning lawyer and had our wills drafted by attorneys who practiced in that area of law and knew what they were doing.

In hindsight, I know we made the right decision. After having focused on and practiced estate planning area for a number of years, I realize every day how much I didn't know before I became an estate planning attorney. I also see the numerous mistakes made by people who drafted their own do-it-yourself wills. Those do-it-yourself wills actually benefit lawyers because their mistakes result in expensive litigation! That's right, a cheap do-it-yourself will could result in thousands of dollars of legal fees and profit for some lawyer down the road. That's a much bigger legal fee than if you had paid the lawyer to draft a valid will for you upfront.

So before you decide to take a risk, know there is more to a will than filling in the blanks. Online marketers want to convince you drafting your own will is easy so you will buy their products. Everyone likes to hear things are easy! They are simply telling you what you want to hear. 

But, wills are more nuanced than online marketers would have you believe. This fact is reinforced every time I attend a continuing legal education event. I always learn something new. Laws change; new cases are decided. Nothing is static in life or in law and the best thing you can do is to seek out a qualified professional who knows the law in your state, keeps up with changes, takes the time to find out about your family and circumstances, and most importantly, is accountable to you for his or her work. 

Experience matters. If your goal is to save money by creating a do-it-yourself will, you need to know that a pre-printed fill in the blank form could turn out to be the most expensive legal document you ever buy. 

If you've decided you don't want to take a risk with your family's future, give us a call at 704.887.5242 or fill out the contact form below.

DISCLAIMER: This blog contains general educational information only. The information in this post does not constitute legal advice  to you and reading the information does not create an attorney-client relationship with Nancy Roberts or the Law Office of Nancy L Roberts, PLLC. You should not rely on this information as legal advice. Before taking any action, you should always seek legal advice from an attorney you hire, who advises you based on your specific facts, circumstances, situation, and the appropriate governing law.

Nancy Roberts
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