Many people wonder why they shouldn’t prepare their own will. After all, websites abound with “free” legal advice, and it’s easy to get forms and templates off the internet. While it may seem simple and less expensive to DIY your will, drafting mistakes or document execution issues can have serious consequences.
Consequences may include a court not treating your will as valid. If a court does not accept your DIY will, you and your heirs may be treated as if you passed away “intestate.” Working with a California wills lawyer can help you avoid these issues and give you peace of mind.
Things to Consider Before You Prepare Your Own Will
California, like all states, has unique requirements for a will to be legal and valid:
- A person must be a legal adult, at least 18 years old, when they sign the will
- A handwritten will must be signed and dated by its author
- A printed or typed will must be signed by the author and witnessed by two people not receiving anything in the will
Many DIY wills fail to meet these requirements and may be deemed invalid despite the drafter’s best intentions. For example, California has stringent requirements regarding witnesses. If a typed will doesn’t have the signature of two witnesses who viewed a person sign it, it may be found invalid.
The wrong wording in a DIY will can also drastically change the meaning of the will and lead to unwanted results. Incorrect language can result in the wrong relative receiving portions of your estate or cutting people out you did not intend to omit.
You may also make choices in your DIY will that can negatively impact someone else’s life, despite your best intentions. If you have an heir with special needs who receives government assistance, receipt of an inheritance can cause them to lose their benefits. They may be forced to spend what you leave them to regain their benefits or hire a lawyer to help them deal with their potential loss of benefits.
Working with an attorney to evaluate any particular circumstances you need to consider can be worth the investment.
What Happens if Your DIY Will Is Considered Invalid?
If your will is deemed invalid, a court will decide what should happen to your assets and belongings. This means California law will determine who inherits your estate according to specific default rules. These rules can result in unintended consequences. For example, if you have no children but are not on good terms with parents or siblings, they may inherit items you would have wanted to give to friends or other loved ones.
Consult With an Attorney
Get in touch with our office today for a free consultation if you have questions about preparing a will or how estate planning works.