‘Should I Write a Will?’ and Other Awkward-But-Important Questions
If you want to be the one to decide who gets your assets rather than the government, consider drawing up a will asap. Here’s how you can write your own will.
Ten out of 10 people die. It’s a fact. So you may ask yourself, “Should I write a will?” You’ll probably need one. But only 44 percent of Americans have a will, according to a Gallup poll from May 2016.
Of course, there are always exceptions to any rule. You may not need a will if…
- You don’t care who gets your stuff.
- You don’t care who gets your money.
- You’re fine with your state government deciding who will get everything.
- You plan to live forever.
Most people I know – even young people without children – do care about at least one of those things.
Even those of us who don’t have all that much still want to be able to decide what happens to our assets should we die.
I know for sure that I don’t want the government dividing up my stuff amongst my relatives. So no matter who you are, you may want to write up your will.
It isn’t all that much fun to contemplate your own death or think about how expensive it is to hire a lawyer. But it’s worse to do nothing at all when there are affordable options out there.
How to Write Your Own Will
There are pros and cons to trying to write your own will. In some states, it’s as simple as getting a pen and paper and writing everything down by hand. Other states won’t accept a handwritten will at all.
But the biggest drawback to writing your own will? You may make mistakes because you don’t know the proper format or details like how many witnesses are needed.
Companies like LegalZoom and U.S. Legal Wills help take the guesswork out of the will-writing process.
Simply visit the company’s website, fill out the forms online, follow their directions, and voila! You have a will. They will help make sure everything is done correctly so that your will is recognized and enforced. The fees vary by site, but they’re generally affordable. LegalZoom starts at $69, and U.S. Legal Wills starts even lower at $34.95.
Both services provide other options, as well. You can get a power of attorney or a living will from either of them. Legal Zoom even offers a higher level of service by providing access to attorneys who will provide legal advice to you for an entire year after you create your will. It will cost an extra $119.88, but that’s nothing compared to the hourly rate that most attorneys charge.
Costly Errors are Possible
I’ve heard horror stories about people who have gone the “write your own will” route. They forget to sign the document or neglect to have it witnessed and notarized properly. A friend of mine had to deal with the devastating effects of a will written by her senile grandfather. The will gave everything to his children, except he didn’t quite get their names right in the document, so there was some question about who he was talking about!
If you don’t understand the rules in your state, an attempt to write your own will could result in costly mistakes.
It also means that your wishes won’t be carried out. You might intend one thing, but have a different result upon your death because you didn’t know how to correctly word it.
Obviously, if you have a lot of assets, or if you have children and need to direct their care, the more reasons you have to hire an attorney to make sure that you do everything right. It’s one thing for the state to decide who gets your 2008 Honda Civic, but quite another for a judge who doesn’t know you to decide who raises your kids!