Are DIY Wills Legal?
If you’re faced with the task of writing a will, you may wonder if you can write a will yourself. There are a number of “do-it-yourself” (DIY) will kits you can buy online. You may be wondering: Are DIY wills legal? Are DIY wills even any good?
Are DIY Wills Legal?
To say that a will is “legal” means that the will is legally effective and will actually transfer your property when you die.
A will is legal in Oklahoma if:
The person writing the will (the “testator”) has the intent to make a will
The testator is over eighteen and is of sound mind
The testator signs at the end of the will
The testator signs the will in the presence of two witnesses, and neither of the witnesses is the testator’s heir
The testator declares to the two witnesses that the document is his will
If a will is entirely in the testator’s handwriting, signed by the testator and dated, then the will is called a “holographic will.” A holographic will is legal even if there are no witnesses. For more information about holographic wills, click here.
These requirements, though, are more complicated than you may think. Entire court cases have argued over the definitions of the above terms. Because it may be difficult for a layperson (or even a lawyer) to understand the exact nature of the above requirements, it’s best to have a competent estate planning lawyer draft your will for you to avoid making any mistakes that could render your will invalid.
Are DIY Wills Any Good?
Even if a will is legally effective, that doesn’t mean you won’t have problems. A will that is legally effective but is poorly drafted can be worse than a will that is legally ineffective. If a will is legally effective, the will will transfer your property when you die. But, if the will is poorly drafted, then the will may transfer your property to people whom you don’t want to have your property. Or, the will may contain ambiguous terms that your relatives and heirs will haggle over in court.
The law of wills is extremely complex. Often, the law requires that a term be drafted in a certain precise way, and if you don’t draft the will according to the law, the will could distribute your property in a way entirely different from what you would intend.
Many court fights over wills have occurred because a will was drafted without a lawyer. You don’t ever want your family members to go through a contested probate case. I’ve handled contested probates before, and they are among the ugliest types of legal cases known to man. Generally, contested probates result in family members hating each other.
In my blog post, “Should you represent yourself?”, I explain why you should not draft a will yourself.
In my blog post, “Are online wills any good?”, I explain why you should not use the online DIY will sites such as LegalZoom, RocketLawyer, Nolo, and MamaBear Legal Forms.
Many people believe that they will save money by writing a will themselves rather than using a lawyer. However, this is false thinking. Most lawyers charge a few hundred dollars to draft a will for you. (If you find a lawyer who charges more, call other lawyers until you find a lawyer who will charge less. You will likely be able to find a lawyer who charges a few hundred dollars to draft a will.)
It can cost much more than a few hundred dollars to repair the problems of a poorly drafted will. If a probate is contested, the contesting parties will likely spend tens of thousands of dollars on legal fees and court costs.
Hire a Lawyer vs. DIY Wills
I’ve said it before on this blog, and I’ll say it again: Always have a lawyer draft your will. The Persaud Law Office will draft your will for a low cost. (Our prices vary according to the complexity of the will, and the individual circumstances of each family. We don’t advertise prices online, and we generally don’t quote prices until we’ve had an in-person meeting with you.) If you would like us to assist you in drafting your will, give us a call.