Can I Write My Own Will or Do I Need an Estate Planning Lawyer?

Sure, you can write your own Will. You can do it on line or use one of the services.  You don't technically need an Estate Planning Lawyer.

If you understand how life insurance, a house, joint property, separately titled accounts, accounts with a beneficiary, retirement accounts, special needs children, estate taxes, people who might contest your Will, digital assets, and your spouse effect your Will and Estate, you might be a good candidate to write your own Will or use an online service.  A knowledgable Estate Planning Attorney has deep knowledge of these issues.  Make sure you do a Power of Attorney and a Healthcare Directive too.

And always, writing your own Will (provided you follow the execution requirements) is better than nothing.  If you don't follow the execution requirements, it is nothing. 

But, writing your own Will is a bit like fixing your own computer.  A lot of bad stuff can happen and boomerang consequences can result and you won't even know it.  

Hey, if all you have are a small bank account and a car, write your own Will.  Beyond that, it is a nightmare requiring a deep knowledge of an Estate Planning Lawyer in the Law, finance, banking, insurance, tax, retirement plans, investments, trusts, and estates.

Writing your own Will can have unintended consequences.  It can also make it harder and more expensive to probate the Will after your death.  

If it isn't executed properly with two witnesses, it isn't even a Will and it will be disregarded.  The execution requirements are very specific and strict.  Most problems with DIY Wills stem from execution problems.  

To have a valid will in Connecticut and New York, it must meet certain requirements:

  1. Be in writing
  2. Be signed by the testator at the end
  3. Be signed by two witnesses, each of them observing the testator signing the Will and then signing the Will in the testator's presence. 
  4. The Testator has to state that this is his Lase Will and Testament and identify the document.
  5. Best practices is to have everyone initial every page.

The witnesses have to be over 18 and disinterested and not a beneficiary.  

Generally, a handwritten or holographic will is valid in Connecticut if it meets the execution requirements. However, the handwritten will that is only signed by the person writing the Will ("Testator") is not valid in Connecticut.  It may be in some other states.  

If there are problems with the Will or challenges to the Will, it can cost ten of thousands of dollars and the Will may be thrown out.  

My advice is to have an Estate Planning Lawyer prepare and execute your Will.  This is not a game for amateurs.  In the long run, it won't be cheaper to DIY either.

Elder, Wills, Estates, Trusts, Special Needs Tax & Business Law; Attorney John Sweeney

Sweeney Legal, LLC, provides legal, practical, and business counsel to Seniors, families, and businesses in the Fairfield, Connecticut area, including the communities of Bridgeport, Bethel, Brookfield, Danbury, Darien, Easton, Fairfield, New Canaan, Newtown, Norwalk, Redding, Ridgefield, Stamford, Weston, Westport and Wilton. John is also licensed in New York serving Westchester County including the towns of Bedford, Lewisboro, Mount Kisco, North Salem, Pound Ridge, and Somers.

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