DIY Wills: Business Owners and Citizens Beware

A will is something no one wants to think about. The reality is that we start dying the moment we’re born, and everything you’ve worked so hard for can be taken away from the people you want to leave your inheritance to.

Statistics show that more than 50% of Americans don’t have a will.

Families argue when a will isn’t in place, and your wishes might not be upheld. Families have been torn apart because someone, or multiple people, believe they’re entitled to some of an estate.

It’s an argument that you won’t be able to settle once you meet your demise. And there are a lot of websites claiming to help you write a will or encouraging people to create their own wills.

Before you jump on the idea, it’s important to know when writing your own will is a good idea, and when it’s a bad idea.

When Writing Your Will is a Good Idea

You’re trying to do everything right in life and writing your own will sounds like a good idea. You’ll save some money by not going through a lawyer, but is this the best idea? It depends. Wills can be complex, and the following are times when you can create your own will with confidence:

  • Everything will be left to your spouse
  • Everything will be left to your children

When there is one clear entity that will receive the remains of your estate, it’s often fine to write your own will.

But when things start to get complex, it’s best to have a professional write up your will. A few situations that are complicated and will require a professional are:

  • When step-children are involved
  • You’re not married to your partner
  • You’re not with your ex, but you’re still legally married
  • Multiple parties will be receiving items from the estate

When Writing Your Own Will is Not Recommended

A few of the above points mention when creating your own will is a bad idea, but there are other situations where creating a will without help is simply not in your best interest. The times when you should not write your own will (aside from the above examples) are:

  • You have assets abroad.
  • You want to reduce the taxes against the estate.
  • You have foreign bank or retirement accounts.
  • You want to leave your business to someone.
  • You have complex requests and wishes.

You know your family best, but even the closest families have been known to fight over a will. The last thing you want to leave your loved ones with are will contests and challenges that drag on for years and often dwindle away the estate’s assets in the process.

If you do plan to write your own will despite the potential hardships that may occur, you’ll want to make sure that you do the following:

  • Sign and date the will.
  • Ensure the signing was witnessed properly.
  • Check that all beneficiary names are spelled properly.
  • Destroy any other will that may conflict with the new will.
  • Tell executors where the will is located.

You must always update your will as circumstances or wishes change.

State Rules Can Conflict With the Will

State laws may conflict with the will, and this means that even if you think you have written everything up properly, there’s a good chance that the will isn’t valid. For example, some states require two witnesses to the signing of the will.

Vermont or Georgia, as an example, once required three witnesses to the signing of the will.

Even when the laws are updated, you may still have to update the will to meet current laws. The state may not require a witness if the will is written in your own handwriting.

A lawyer will understand these laws and help you form a will that is valid and up-to-date with your state’s current laws.

When making your own will, it may be valid, but if it isn’t written up properly, the will may be:

  • Contested
  • Invalid

Your will may also cost your beneficiaries money in the end. You want to keep as much of your estate in the hands of your beneficiaries. Writing a will on your own may sound like a good idea, but the slightest mistake can lead to a contested will and family conflicts that may never end.