First, let us make a distinction between self made Wills where you copy some one else’s Will or draft your Will all by yourself versus having a guided approach. When you modify another person’s Will, chances are there will be mistakes made or you may overlook something. The worst thing is the Will does not suit your locality. So never do that.
In most countries around the world, anyone can write their own Will without the help of an attorney. You do have to make sure that it is written in a manner that is acceptable. That is why, while you can write your Will, the best way is to draft a Will using a guided approach.
That way, you can save money and still be confident that you did not make critical errors like not dating it properly. You can use either software or a good template together with thorough questions. Some of the critical errors are as below.
Incomplete or Unclear Distribution
This is quite a common mistake a person inexperience in drafting their Will makes, First he gives everything to Mr. A, and then later specify to give an individual item, Ms. B. This confusion may cause disputes later. Mr. A will say that everything is his while Ms. B says no. Another potential mistake is getting the percentages or fractions wrong and leaving some portion not distributed. For instance, you give 55% of your home to your spouse, 35% to son No.1 and then forgot you have another 10% not distributed. You can overcome this by having else go through your Will.
No Residual Clause
Drafting a Will without a residual clause is another common mistake with self made Wills. If you do not include a residual clause, what happens is that your estate is considered partial intestate i.e. your Will did not mention your entire estate. This can happen when you acquired additional assets after your wrote you Will but did not re-write your Will after that. It can also happen if someone else dies and you become the beneficiary of a property, thus your asset increased.
These are pitfalls if you modify someone else’s Will or if you draft the whole Will yourself.
Take A Guided Approach
Airline pilots need guidance when they land even though they do it daily. So, when you write a Will, also use a guided approach. Never do it yourself. Either draft it online as the software is designed to catch such mistakes. Good quality software will prevent you from writing such mistakes even if you deliberately try to do so because they have been well thought out.
Many people about to write their Will have concerns whether Wills written online or using software are valid or not. The answer is Yes. As long as you follow all the instructions especially when it comes to signing the Will. Several states in the US has slightly different requirements.
The things that makes a Will invalid is the same, whether you do so online or done through an attorney. For example, you signed the Will first and later asked your witnesses to sign. So although the Will is signed, someone may dispute the Will by saying your witnesses did not actually see you sign the Will.
Online Will services from reputable companies will have all the necessary clauses and are safe to use.
If you are still uncomfortable with the whole idea of doing your own Will, then the best option for you is to see an attorney or estate planning professional. If you are comfortable to write your own Will, then such services help save you a lot of money and is perfectly legal.
“Making a will doesn’t require a lot of legal knowledge,
but you have a lot of personal decisions to make,”
- Mary Randolph, lawyer and
coauthor of the legal manual for Quicken WillMaker Plus