Your will should not be a do it yourself project. Here are some things to avoid doing when it comes to your will.
1. Do not make changes to your existing will by crossing out provisions and inking in your own new ones. In New York, the probate clerk will examine a will for alterations. A provision which has been stricken from the will with a new term inserted by pen or pencil will simply be ignored in favor of the original. If a portion of the will is blacked out with a marker, the entire will is going to be invalidated and the testator will be intestate.
2. Never make a copy of your signed will. This is an invitation to mischief after you are gone since a photocopy can ultimately be admitted to probate. This can lead to a situation where an interested, if less than honest relative may find both the photocopy together with the original of your latest will. If the photocopy treats that person better than your later will…..just guess which is the one to actually be brought to a lawyer to be offered for probate!
3. Don’t ever write your own will. Yes, there are templates for wills abounding commercially guaranteed to relieve your stress about not having a will. The problem is that if you have any sort of a complex situation requiring a will, the odds are that you will screw it up. Lawyers call folks who write their own wills "Jolly Testators". You will save the cost of going to a lawyer to have your will drawn but the mistakes you make may cost your family heavily in the end.
4. Avoid including burial instructions in your will. By the time your will turns up after your death, you will be long in the ground. It will be too late for any specific instructions. Better to leave them in a letter to your next of kin if you are unable to personally speak to them about your wishes. Equally to be avoided are specific bequests about jewelry or other personal items. Your gold cuff links may be long gone before you are. Whether lost or given as a gift, their failure to appear to be included in your estate will cause nothing but confusion and more than a bit of anger. It should also be noted that while most estates will no longer be subject to Federal estate tax, New York residents with estates in excess of one million dollars will still be required to file an estate tax return. Since the return is accompanied by a copy of the will, reference to phantom pieces of jewelry raise issues which may need to be addressed to the state tax department.
There are many lawyers in your community who are more than competent to prepare your will. It should not cost you unreasonably and it will save much more than what you pay to have it drawn.