Writing Your Own Will Requires Careful Thought
If you are considering writing your own will, then you should understand the value of having a will so that your will covers all of the protections you want for your heirs which is probably your family. If you have children and a wife, they will need to be covered by your will so that your assets will not be dispersed according to the laws in effect where you live. Without a will, your assets will not go to the people you intended to receive them.
WHEN YOU SHOULDN’T WRITE YOUR OWN WILL
- If you are trying to reduce an inheritance tax.
- You are leaving part of a business you own to someone.
- You are the owner of property in another country.
- You have investments or bank accounts in a foreign country.
- People other than your immediate family are financially dependent on you.
- You intend to establish a monthly payment for members of your family.
- You are intending to leave property or some other valuable commodity to a person where complex language describing your intent is required.
- Any wishes that could be misunderstood or are even somewhat complex.
- If you have any reason to believe that someone will challenge your will in court.
- If there is any chance that your wishes will stir up trouble for your family.
THE QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD CONSIDER BEFORE MAKING YOUR OWN WILL
Is the welfare of your spouse and children important enough to warrant spending $200 to $300 for a solicitor to make a will? Do you consider avoiding legal battles after your death important enough to retain an attorney to make your will? Are you certain that the provisions of the will are simple enough for you to prepare it safely?
THE RISKS OF WRITING YOUR OWN WILL
If your will is anything but very simple and your financial condition is complicated, then your will may be subject to a protracted court fight. If your will is written badly, it could be invalidated in its entirety and then the law decides where your assets will go.
WHEN YOU DECIDE TO BEGIN WRITING YOUR WILL MAKE SURE THESE ARE THE KEY ITEMS YOU COVER AT A MINIMUM
- Be specific about the spelling of names. Don’t say I leave everything to my wife. Use the full name of your wife.
- Follow the language prescribed by law which you can obtain online or from a stationary supply store. The language has evolved in the law over many years because the language is intended to eliminate confusion. Using the wrong wording can void your entire will or parts of it.
- Be sure the spelling is correct and especially the spelling of names of other people.
- Describe in detail specific items of jewellery you want to leave to a person. Otherwise, you can say all of your personal effects are left to………….. An antique car should be identified by the serial or VIN number and the name of the person who is to receive it. Bank accounts, stocks and bonds should include the name of a person who has the right of survivorship.
- Name an executor and obtain their approval for being named. Make sure the executor has a copy of the new will or knows where it is kept.
- Make sure the will is signed, dated and witnessed according to the requirements of the law.
- Consider using a template when making your own will. A template is not a guarantee of accuracy, but it is a helpful guide to writing the best will.
DESTROY ANY OLD WILLS
If you already have a valid will, then you should destroy it and make sure your new will states that it revokes all prior wills.
A PRIMARY OBJECTIVE OF YOUR WILL IS TO KEEP YOUR ESTATE OUT OF PROBATE
The best way to do this is to make your will as clear as possible to avoid any ambiguities. If you are comfortable doing so, it would be wise to discuss your will with the people mentioned as heirs. Certainly, this applies to your spouse who should never be left without a copy of the will and a full explanation of all of the provisions.
Careful wording of the will go a long way toward keeping it out of probate, and avoiding problems with the heirs or people who believe they should be heirs.
AVOID TRYING TO INCORPORATE A TRUST AGREEMENT IN THE WILL
Trusts are arrangements for the control and distribution of assets by a third party over a period of time. Rarely, can a person create a trust who is not a solicitor and not trained in creating trusts. Any attempt to do this may result in a legal nightmare.