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Self-Made Wills—Are They a Good Idea?

Last Will with a coffee cup

You may have seen form wills online or in a store, and wondered if they might be a good solution for you as a way to avoid the costs of hiring a lawyer. Do-it-yourself wills might seem like a prudent way to save money, but they often bring headaches for heirs, as well as the potential for costly legal battles after you pass. Read on to learn what can go wrong when testators create their own wills without the help of a lawyer.

Your handwritten will probably isn’t valid. If you’re planning to create the ultimate do-it-yourself will in the form of a holographic will (a will hand-written by the testator that was not signed in the presence of witnesses), you should reconsider. Handwritten wills are valid for New York residents only where they were created by someone in the military (or who is accompanying a member of the military) involved in an armed conflict, or by a mariner. Even then, the will is not valid permanently, but only for a period of time after the person returns from the conflict or from sea.

Lawyers can help you spot pitfalls in how your estate is devised. Certain beneficiaries may be harmed more than helped by receiving a gift through your will, and an attorney can help you identify these issues. For example, a family member who is bad with money and has accrued a great deal of credit card debt may end up filing for bankruptcy, and cash they inherit directly could end up being used to satisfy creditors. In contrast, a gift to an older individual could interfere with their own estate plan, pushing them into a higher tax bracket. A lawyer can help you find a different way to include these individuals in your estate plan.

Creating a will that appears like it might be invalid could end up in a legal challenge. Individuals who do not receive the gift to which they believe themselves entitled will often search for reasons to challenge a will in court. Creating your own will provides a pretext for a dissatisfied beneficiary to contest the will. Since ensuring that a will is legally binding can be difficult for non-lawyers to do, the challenger will be more likely to succeed in invalidating the will than if you had enlisted legal help.

If you need help creating a reliable last will and testament in New York, contact the dedicated and knowledgeable Hudson Valley estate planning attorneys at Rusk, Wadlin, Heppner & Martuscello, LLP for assistance with your case, in Marlboro at 845-236-4411, and in Kingston at 845-331-4100.

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