Updated: December 16, 2022
Attorneys and other estate planners do not come cheaply, so when it comes time to make your last will and testament, can you go it alone? Doing it yourself may be the fastest, easiest, and least expensive option, at least if your estate is very simple. Even when this is true there will be significant variation among states. It is possible that saving money now will cost you money in the long run, especially if your will is not valid and needs to be re-written, is contested, or requires the intervention of the probate court.
It is best to avoid doing it yourself if you have:
It’s not just “I leave everything to my spouse” situations that can be managed by you; with the correct source you can handle more complicated situations.
Many estates with higher levels of complexity can be done without professional help. Your ability to do this will vary, depending on your abilities and complexity of the laws in your state. You must be honest with yourself when deciding, with help if necessary, what level of complexity you can handle before going to a professional.
This process was partially outlined in What Should Be Included in Your Will. Should you decide your will is going to be simple to create, here is a brief summary of the steps to take. Each step should be labeled as consecutively numbered “Articles.” The details of each will be found in a separate section.
Since all wills are subject to the probate process, it is crucial that you get it right. In order to have a valid will you must correctly do steps two, three, four, nine, ten, and eleven above. The probate court has the option of invalidating any part of or your entire will if it doesn’t meet their standards.
Law itself is a very complex subject, even things that appear to be straightforward can be complex.
If your estate is large and complex, you may not be able to manage it yourself. You should consider getting professional help if:
Be realistic about what you put in your will.
Be aware of ways to reduce estate and inheritance taxes before starting your will, otherwise you could miss out on saving this money.
Will you be able to anticipate and plan for all contingencies, such as the death of a beneficiary? You may be able to envision most of them, but professionals have experience and could be helpful.
Will templates/programs can guide you through the correct way to make special requests or inform you about those you can’t. For example, some states do not allow certain individuals to be disinherited.
Remember how important all that legalese is for these requests to be recognized.
Once you have created your will, you may opt to have it professionally evaluated at that point. It would assure the will is valid, but be less expensive than having it done entirely by an attorney.
You can alter your will by yourself by using codicils or writing a new will.