With the influx of websites offering DIY legal services, it might be tempting to save some money and plan your estate by yourself. This, however, is probably not the best course of action. Determining how to distribute the assets you’ve worked a lifetime to accrue—as well as naming a legal guardian for your minor children or deciding who can make important legal or medical decisions on your behalf—deserves a bit more thought than “filling in the blanks” on a generic web form.
Estate planning is full of small details that most people don’t have intimate knowledge of. Writing your own will without the assistance of an estate planning attorney opens the door to many mistakes, which can lead to unexpected, expensive, and oftentimes tragic consequences. While the lower cost may initially seem attractive, any perceived savings may be negated after your death…which will hurt your beneficiaries, not you.
Let’s explore a few issues specific to taking a DIY approach to writing your own will.
What Pitfalls Do I Face if I Create a Will Online?
If you create a will online, it can lead to a false sense of security. You may think your affairs are in order when—in actuality—they are not. This is especially true if you believe that these documents are a set-it-and-forget-it type situation. Throughout your life, your circumstances are going to change, whether it is in regard to your assets, your beneficiaries, or changes in tax legislation. When these circumstances change, your estate planning documents also need to change…but most people don’t realize that.
With DIY estate planning, you are not getting sound advice on how to optimize your strategy to best benefit your loved ones. At the end of the day, an estate plan is about making sure your wishes are followed and that your family is taken care of after you are gone. While it may seem like a good idea to save some money and just do it yourself, making an estate plan requires intimate legal knowledge and a good strategy.
Is a Handwritten Will Valid in Texas?
Estate planning law is determined by each state, and the requirements can vary widely. A will must comply with state requirements in order to be considered valid. Small things, such as failing to appoint an executor, or not properly witnessing the will, can cause the will to be invalidated.
So, is a handwritten will valid in Texas? The short answer is yes, as long as the will is written entirely in your handwriting and signed by you. However, these requirements are somewhat subjective, and easy enough for predators and creditors to contest. If you think someone might challenge the validity of your will, it is a good idea to work with a qualified estate planning attorney, who will ensure your will is legally-binding.
Estate attorneys rarely recommend handwritten wills, as they can be difficult to prove legally valid in court and can contain errors and unclear wishes that take time and money to unravel through the probate process.
Can I Write My Own Will and Have it Notarized?
In Texas, a will does not need to be notarized to be valid, but in order to make your will self-proving, a notary is required, in addition to other requirements. When your will is self-proving, the court can accept it without needing to contact your witnesses to prove its validity. This can speed up the probate process, though it won’t help resolve errors or clarify your wishes.
Employing the help of an estate planning attorney is the best way to gain true peace of mind. An attorney will be able to draw up an estate plan that is right for your specific situation. An experienced attorney will be there to guide you through each step of the process, and will advise on the best vehicle for passing assets to your beneficiaries. They will also check in periodically to make sure nothing has changed or needs to be updated with your plan.
Working with an attorney to draft an estate plan is not as overwhelming as it may seem, and the simple act of planning your estate can allow you to breathe easy knowing that your loved ones will be taken care of in the event of your incapacitation or death. Take advantage of our offer for a free 30-minute consultation and learn more about how the Hailey-Petty Law Firm can help you prepare for the many “what ifs” of the future.
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