Can I Make My Will Myself?
What is a will?
A will is a legal document that expresses a person’s wishes as to how their property should be distributed after their death and names a personal representative that should manage the distribution of that property. A will formalizes your final wishes on important life decisions such as guardianship and asset distribution. When you prepare your last will and testament, you help protect your property and your loved ones.
If you die without a valid will in Arizona, state intestacy laws will determine what happens to your assets and dependents. Any assets will then be distributed according to Arizona laws, and not necessarily according to your final wishes. For this reason, it is important to have a will to protect your family’s financial future.
Who can create a will?
Anyone who is of sound mind and at least eighteen (18) years old can make a will in Arizona. However, there are also numerous witness requirements that must be followed in order for a will to be valid under Arizona law:
- The witness must be at least 18 years old,
- The witness must be of sound mind,
- There must be two (2) witnesses, and
- A witness cannot also be a beneficiary of the will.
Why is it important to write a will?
There are two main advantages in creating a will:
- A will allows you to distribute your property after you die. It gives you the power to distribute your property the way that you want to. Remember, if you don’t have a will or other estate planning documents in place, your assets will be distributed according to the laws in the State of Arizona.
- Second, a will is the only document in Arizona that lets parents name guardians for their minor children. If you have young children, it is a good idea to put together a will to ensure that your children are cared for, even if you plan on using other estate planning documents, such as a trust.
What steps can I take to start writing my will?
Take the following steps before you start writing your will:
- Account for your valuable assets
- List out your heirs and other beneficiaries
- Consider guardianship of minors and dependent adults
- Decide how you want your assets distributed
- Nominate a personal representative
- Consult with an experienced Arizona estate planning attorney
- Prepare an official, signed document
- Keep your will somewhere easily accessible to your family
Is a handwritten will valid?
Arizona does recognize a handwritten will, but the will must meet certain requirements in order to be valid. Handwritten wills don’t require witnesses, but the writer of a handwritten will must be of sound mind, sign and date the document, and write all assets and material provisions of their will in their handwriting (to protect against possible forgery or fraud).
Does a will avoid probate?
No, but a properly created will can help minimize probate expenses. In order to avoid probate, other estate planning strategies (ex: trusts) can be implemented.
Will all my property automatically pass under my will?
No, some of your property may pass outside of your will. For example, if you have a life insurance policy, the proceeds of that policy will be payable to the listed beneficiaries, regardless of what is written in your will. It is a good idea to periodically check your life insurance policies and review/update your designated beneficiaries.
Do I need a lawyer to create my will?
Some people may not need a lawyer to create a will, but because wills can be contested and you could lose the opportunity to control your legacy if your will is declared invalid, it’s important to work with an experienced attorney when drafting your will. While writing your own will may seem like it could save you time and money, it rarely works out as smoothly in reality. Many times, these do-it-yourself wills contain mistakes, fail to list all assets or have incomplete information that could invalidate the entire will. An estate planning attorney can help answer your estate planning questions and can ensure that your estate plan accomplishes your goals while also complying with all state and federal laws.
How can a lawyer help me create my will?
Early estate planning is an important safeguard for your family and has the potential to be a simple process with the aid of a skilled attorney. If you don’t have a will, the experienced attorneys at Brown & Hobkirk, PLLC can help you draft one that fulfills your unique needs. We can advise you on how to create a legally valid will and on any alternative estate planning tools that can be utilized to protect your assets.
How to know when to call a lawyer?
If you have significant assets (such as an estate valued above $150,000), or if you have certain complicating legal issues, such as an impending divorce, inheritance matters, or questions about the disposition of real property, it would be advisable to seek out an experienced estate planning attorney.
At Brown & Hobkirk, PLLC we take the time to customize each estate plan to the specific needs of each client. We pride ourselves on our superior communication skills and our ability to explain complicated legal matters in easy to understand terms. When you hire us, you can rest assured that our skilled and attentive attorneys will help you effectively plan your last will and testament. To get started with drafting your will, contact our legal team today.
Robert Hobkirk is a partner at the law office of Brown & Hobkirk, PLLC. He represents clients in legal matters involving trusts and estates, wills, probate law, and estate litigation, among other areas.