Can I Write My Will By Myself?

On first blush, writing a will seems easy enough… leave my stuff to my loved ones, and simply write that on paper.

Based on that misconception, we often get calls asking if we would advise someone to write their will themselves. We cannot advise someone whether to do this or not, but we definitely don't recommend it.

Services like LegalZoom are more prevalent than ever today, and services like these make estate planning seem easy, to the point where you can fill in a few blanks and have a perfect plan. I've seen Suze Orman's living trust sample forms used by some potential clients. They lived in Pennsylvania, but their trust was written for California law.

The problems with writing a will by yourself are numerous. Here are some reasons why writing your own will can be a problem:

  • An estate plan usually includes more than a will — think powers of attorney, living wills, etc. which are often times more important than a will.
  • A will may be inappropriate in a few cases, and a living trust may make more sense.
  • No independent third party (the lawyer) to review and ensure your wishes on paper reflect both your actual wishes and reality of your family circumstances.
  • Over 50% of the time, clients we see that need a "simple estate plan" actually need quite a bit of customization, and a few will need more advanced planning based on their goals.
  • If you create a trust within a will (a testamentary trust), your will becomes more complicated. Fill-in-the-blank services cannot do an effective job building trusts for you.
  • Our firm builds relationships with each and every client. We make sure your estate plan stays updated at least every few years, which is crucial.
  • Today, many of your biggest assets probably won't be distributed through your will. IRA's, 401(k)'s, life insurance, etc. is all distributed through a beneficiary designation form. An attorney can help you plan your inheritance taking into account the entire estate.
  • A lawyer knows the law, and the minefield that exists with will challenges, capacity in writing a will, conflicts, etc… all the legal stuff that you probably don't want to worry about. A lawyer can ensure that when you write a will, it will be upheld if need be in any court.

These are just a few reasons why writing a will by yourself is not a good idea.

One more thing… if your estate plan is indeed a simple one, our firm's rates aren't much more expensive than LegalZoom, and the value you receive by seeing an attorney is so much greater.

To speak with our firm today, please give us a call at (215) 706-0200. We can conduct a complementary review your do-it-yourself will and estate plan.