Just about anyone who can navigate the web can find a template for a do it yourself will. After all, why go to a lawyer to draft your will when you can figure out how to do it yourself for free?
Your lawblogger has long contended with the misconception that just because somebody is literate in English and can read and write, that they can successfully draft a legal document — even one as critical as their own Last Will and Testament.
A recent article in The Catholic Register illustrates just that point. Keep in mind that you won’t be around to explain to folks just what you meant when you wrote your own will so that any confusion resulting from a poor choice of words will end up in court. In Surrogate’s Court, we try to determine the true wishes of the person who wrote the Will and to follow them if at all possible. Unfortunately, that will likely lead to some high-priced legal talent taking sides and litigating to reach a conclusion as to what your simple words might explain if only you were alive to help solve the problem.
A worst case scenario could lead to your Will being denied probate resulting in your estate being distributed as if you had no will. Your spouse (if you are married) will share your estate with your children who will inherit in equal shares. All well and good except that your spendthrift son who you left nothing to when he ran off to the circus will get his share together with your other kids. On a more somber note, any specific gifts you made to charities or to friends would fail and not be honored. On a real serious note, a child with special needs would have his or her legacy snatched up by the state in the absence of a supplemental needs trust or other some other way to protect those assets.
Another point is that a DIY will lacks the protection that we get from the rite of due execution when your Will’s execution is properly witnessed and supervised by a licensed attorney.
It isn’t all that hard for a competent and qualified attorney to draft your Will. The cost is not prohibitive and pales by comparison to the cost of doing a bad job on your own.