If you grew up during the 1960s or 1970s, you probably recollect old Western movies. Rugged gunslingers would knock back shots of whiskey in a saloon before they headed out for a gunfight at high noon. While they were contemplating the consequences, they would jot down a last will on a napkin or a scrap of paper.
Things are not the same today as they were back then, but it can seem as though creating a will is a pretty simple and straightforward endeavor. This notion can be bolstered by the fact that there are websites on the Internet that sell generic, template legal documents, including last wills.
Can you simply create a will on your own without legal assistance? To be perfectly honest, from a legal perspective, you do not have to be a licensed attorney to create a valid last will.
The person who is creating a last will is called the testator. In the state of Vermont, for a last will to be valid, the testator must sign the will in front of at least two witnesses, and the witnesses must also sign the will. These witnesses must be adults in the eyes of the law who are mentally competent.
Speaking of mental competence, if the will is going to be valid in the eyes of the law, the person who is creating the will must be fully competent. Plus, there can be no coercion, fraud, or intimidation involved in the signing of the will. In our state, a will can be valid even if it is not notarized.
Creating a will on your own is risky business, even though you’re technically allowed to give it a try. Without getting into any specific details, just look at the big picture. Why are you creating the will? You are doing so to arrange for the distribution of everything that you have accumulated throughout your life to the people that you love the most. Is this something that you should do on your own, considering the legal ramifications?
Even if you get some help through the Internet, you should be aware of potential negative consequences that can come about if you use generic legal documents that you download at a hefty price. Legal professors have advised against do-it-yourself estate planning, and they made this assessment after examining DIY last wills that were created using these tools.
There is another huge thing to take into consideration when you are thinking about creating a will on your own. Are you absolutely certain that a last will is the right estate planning document for you and your family? There are other options out there, and in many if not most cases, a will is not the best choice.
For example, do you know anything about the probate process? Many people are not aware of the fact that a will must be admitted to probate after the testator passes away. The probate court supervises the administration of the estate, and this process comes with a number of different drawbacks.
No inheritances are distributed during probate, and it can take around a year even if everything runs smoothly. Plus, anyone who wants to find out how the resources were distributed can access probate records, so privacy is lost. Thirdly, there are considerable expenses that can pile up during probate.
Another thing about a will that you have to take into consideration is the fact that the inheritors would be receiving a lump sum inheritances. Some people are not great with money, so the potential for inheritance squandering is present if you create a will as your vehicle of asset transfer.
On the other hand, if you were to use a living trust instead of a last will, you could name a trustee to manage the assets in the trust. You could include spendthrift protections, and you could allow the trustee to distribute assets on a limited basis over an extended period of time.
Assets in a living trust can be distributed outside of probate, and this is another advantage.
Schedule a Consultation
As you can see, creating a will on your own without full knowledge of all the facts may not be a good idea. If you would like to discuss all of your options with a licensed professional, our firm would be glad to help.
We offer no obligation consultations to people here in the greater Burlington area, and you can give us a call at (802) 879-7133 or send us a message through this website to set up an appointment.