Myth #7- I Can Write My Own Will!

December 4, 2017
Lindsay M. Schoeneberger

Apologies to everyone who is following my Friday myth series and was disappointed when this post did not show up on last Friday.  Lack of time and sleep due to my do it yourself project contributed to the delay.  Read on to learn more.

I hope by now, the previous six myths have convinced you that it is a good idea to have a Will.  But maybe you’re not convinced that you should meet with an attorney to have one drafted.  Fair enough.  My fiancé and I are avid do it yourselfers and we just finished installing a brand new kitchen.  (In the interest of full disclosure, my Mother is a kitchen designer and was on call for all technical questions.)  Does it look good?  I think so!  Will it function better than the old one?  I certainly hope so!  Are there mistakes and things a professional would have done differently?  ABSOLUTELY!  Will we change things?  Maybe. But overall the kitchen fulfills its purpose.

I may have you thoroughly confused.  You’re probably thinking, “Wait, I thought this was about needing a lawyer and you’re telling me about your DIY kitchen project.”  Bear with me. Much like my new kitchen, there are plenty of ways to draft a Will yourself.  Much like my new kitchen, you might draft a Will that will fulfill its purpose.  But then again, you might not.  Unlike my kitchen, if there is something wrong with your Will, when will it be discovered?  Only after you’re deceased?  If so, it will be too late to fix it.  Unlike a kitchen, this is not something you will look at daily and easily recognize any deficiencies.  And, once you are gone, it will no longer be as simple as ordering a new cabinet or changing a fixture.

Knowing what you want your Will to do with your estate, and drafting it in a way that accomplishes all of it are two totally different things.  Sometimes when I consult with clients I realize that they are asking for one thing but really want another.  When you are working with a professional who takes the time to figure out your actual goals, this is not a problem.  But if you just fill out a form you find online, or write something down without really understanding what you are doing, how will you know it is wrong?

Many times the documents you find online are not state specific, so they can end up with a mishmash of laws from different states.  State law controls probate.  So if you Will does not conform with the State law, it can cause problems.  It is also not just a matter of meeting the minimum state requirements for a valid Will.

There are many different clauses and provisions that can make the probate process easier for your loved ones.  These provisions are not necessarily required, but can make all the difference in the world.  One clause in particular relates to having your Executor furnish a bond.  Miss this clause and your estate could spend a significant amount of money unnecessarily.  Or, if you miss this clause and your Executor has bad credit, they may not be able to serve as Executor.

If you have a Will that you drafted or that used an online form, at least take the time to have a qualified Attorney review it.  Additional time and effort now could save your family and friends heartache, frustration, and money later.

Lindsay Schoeneberger is an attorney at Russell, Krafft and Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and a DIY kitchen installer. She received her law degree from Widener University School of Law but relies on family, friends and other professionals for kitchen installation expertise.  She practices in a variety of areas including Estate Planning.