Do It Yourself Will from a Kirkland Estate Planning Lawyer
A couple of days ago I talked about what a trust is.
Here’s the deal – don’t try to do a trust on your own. You are going to mess it up.
But, maybe you can do a will on your own. And I’m a kirkland estate planning lawyer, so you know I know what I’m talking about.
Let’s explore that…
What is a Will?
Before you run off making your own will, you should probably understand exactly what it is.
No, you don’t have to go to law school to understand what a will is. It’s actually pretty straight forward.
A will is simply your instructions to the world on how your stuff should be distributed when you die.
To be specific, your “stuff” may include:
- real estate;
- your kids;
- your kids’s financial well being; and
- your personal property (cars, furniture, etc.).
Some stuff that usually isn’t included is:
- life insurance proceeds (you have life insurance, right?)
- bank account balances;
- retirement accounts; and
- things of that nature.
The things that aren’t included in your will aren’t there because you distribute them via other means.
How do You Make a Valid Will?
Now that you know what it does (generally) let’s talk about what a valid will looks like.
There are several elements to make a will valid (and we’re only talking Washington State here – the rules for each state are different).
First, you must be 18 years old.
Second, you must be of sound mind and body (translation – you must know what you are doing and be aware of the decisions you are making).
Third, the will must be written.
Fourth, you must sign the will.
Fifth, two independent witnesses (they aren’t named in the will) must sign the will saying they saw you sign it.
Sixth, though not a requirement, you and your witnesses should sign an affidavit (a piece of paper you swear is true) confirming the validity of the will.
That’s about it. Pretty simple, huh.
Not so Fast My Friend – Will Mistakes
Although a will is easy to make, it’s also kind of easy to mess up if you aren’t careful.
And the problem, often, is that you don’t know what you don’t know.
For example, I was talking to someone the other day who told me they wanted to split the guardianship of their kids. They wanted one family member from mom’s side and one family member from dad’s side.
Here’s the problem: it doesn’t work like that.
Now, should something happen to them, their kids are going to be raised by someone they had no say in choosing, the different families are likely to fight over who gets custody, and the whole thing is a huge mess.
Imagine what else might be out there tripping up the distribution of your resources and the following of your wishes.
In a jam, make your own will. But understand there are pitfalls to doing so.
Using the Will when Necessary
Here’s another problem people often face when making a will on their own – they have no idea what to do with it when it’s done.
You should only have one original will, so keeping it in a safe place can be a difficult proposition.
There are ways to store it safely and provide instructions to people you trust to take care of your estate after you are gone, but there are also potential pitfalls if you aren’t careful.
The in-depth answers here are a little too long for this blog post, but here’s something you should definitely remember: do not store your will in your safe deposit box.
Your will is what tells everyone to do when you die. If you are the only one with access to your safe deposit box, that makes it difficult to get those instructions.
At the end of the day the decision to make your own will should be well thought out. When it comes to my kids and my family, I want to make sure things are done right…
P.S. Do you have kids? Have you completed guardianship paperwork? Have you done it correctly? Click here to find out what happens if you don’t do anything: Are you okay with a judge choosing the guardians of your children?
P.P.S. Do you own a business? Do you have a plan so the business, and your family, can survive if something happens to you? If not, click here to learn how simple it is to protect your business and your family from tragedy: 5 Ways to Protect Your Business from Catastrophic Failure.
P.P.P.S. Do you have no kids and think you don’t need an estate plan? Single and think a will is only for married couples. You couldn’t be more wrong. Click here to learn more: 5 reasons estate planning is a must have even if you don’t have kids.
Christopher Small is a Kirkland estate planning attorney who helps people get rich and live forever. He is also the owner of CMS Law Firm LLC.