Can I draft my own will?
Sure. But I’m gonna give you some reasons that you should not.
I’m Sarah Siedentopf, I’m an Estate Planning and Probate Attorney in Atlanta, Georgia. And once I got asked this question by an attorney friend of mine, she didn’t practice estate planning, she did other things and she wanted to know, could she draft her own will? And my response was, yes, if you know what all the words mean.
So if you understand it, you can draft your own will. She pretty quickly agreed that she did not understand it and needed help. Please don’t try this yourself, unless you actually understand what all the words mean and what you are doing. One of the biggest problems is that people think that they have drafted something legally binding and it is not. Get into my office and it’s not you, it’s your family members after you’ve passed away. And there’s a piece of paper that doesn’t have enough witnesses or it doesn’t have a notary or it’s lacking other things. And your family members, first of all, have to spend money and time trying to figure out if this piece of paper is legally a will. And then there may even be extra court and attorney’s fees while we’re trying to probate this will because the court has questions.
We need to find those witnesses and get them to sign something saying that, “You know, this was in fact a will.” Another issue is that it may not have the effect that you intended. Quite regularly I see documents in my office where there is a will or even a do-it-yourself trust. And then later, there’s another document that perhaps a will that claims to modify the trust. This doesn’t work. And sometimes we have an amendment to a will that doesn’t have the right number of people signing it, all sorts of different problems.
So signing a new piece of paper, saying something different may not actually make the changes to your old plan that you think that you were trying to make. Do it yourself. Not a great idea, unless you actually know what you are doing and understand how each of these things works together. Wills and trusts interact differently. Everything in estate planning depends on who owns it. So is it in your probate estate? Is it owned by your trust? Is it life insurance that’s going straight to beneficiaries?
So if you don’t understand all of the legal implications of those things you may be making a bigger mess for your family. So if you’ve got questions about estate planning, please give me a call. And if you want to comment, I’d love to hear from you. Thank you.