Can I Make My Own Will and Testament?

A Will and Testament

Can I make my own will and testament?

While a last will and testament is a legal document, you can write a will on your own without an attorney’s help. The will must meet state requirements or it might be found invalid in court. Every state has different requirements for writing your own will to make it valid. You might be able to fill out a standardized form or a handwritten will may be valid in your state. States also have varied laws to execute the will. You might have to sign the will in front of disinterested witnesses or the will might need to be notarized. You are also going to have to consider estate taxes, and you will have to make sure you’re using the right language and terminology to distribute assets to your beneficiaries. Writing your own will can be complicated. People's Justice LLC can help you with a DIY last will and testament in Philadelphia, PA. Learn more about how we can help by calling 855-577-7673.

How do I make a will without a lawyer?

In Pennsylvania, you can create a will and testament using an online template or software designed specifically for that purpose. The software and templates may be purchased and downloaded through various resources and some provide access to free legal advice. Pennsylvania law allows you to sign the will without witnesses, although in certain circumstances witnesses may be required at probate to prove the will after your death. To avoid this problem, you can attach a self-proving affidavit to the will with witnesses to your signature. While you can write a will without an attorney’s assistance, you may want to consult an attorney or service like People's Justice LLC to clarify any questions you may have, especially about terminology you might not understand or you have complex situations you need to sort out.

How do you write a last will and testament?

Although it may seem daunting, writing a will and testament can be simplified by following this process:

  • Create a document or download a template: If you are creating the document yourself, you primarily need to title the document “Last Will and Testament” and list your full legal name and address on the document. You’ll also make a declaration that you’re of legal age, of sound mind, and this document is your last will, revoking all other wills. 
  • Name an executor: The executor is the person, usually a family member or close friend, who manages the will and distributes your estate’s assets. 
  • Appoint guardians for minor or dependent children: Name someone you trust as guardians of children or the court will appoint them guardians.
  • Name your beneficiaries: Beneficiaries are anyone who inherits assets after you die.
  • Designate assets: Assets can range from money to property, and you will make a list of all assets along with the person who will inherit them. You may also list any people you wish to disinherit, along with reasons why.
  • Find witnesses, if needed, to sign the will: Although not required, it’s usually best to find witnesses of legal age to sign the will. Getting witnesses to sign will prevent problems in probate after you die.
  • Find a safe place to store the will: Put the will in a safe deposit box or other similar secure place and notify your executor of its location.

How does last will and testament work?

As a legal document, your last will and testament gives you an opportunity to decide how your assets are distributed to family and friends after you die. In addition to naming heirs to your property and financial assets, you can also name guardianship of minors or dependent children. As long as the court determines the will valid, and no one contests the will, all your assets are distributed as outlined in the will after your death.  

Can a last will and testament be changed?

The last will and testament can be changed at any time by the person who made the will—the testator—as long as that person is mentally competent. Usually, changes are made through a codicil, a document that specifies the changes and is attached to the will. Codicils are usually added for minor changes. The testator can also fully revoke a will and write a new one that can change everything the person sees fit. For substantial changes, a new will is recommended.

Can a last will and testament be contested?

A last will and testament can be contested. It can only be contested, however, during the probate process and a valid legal question arises about the document or the circumstances in which it was written. It can be contested if there are problems with how the will was signed or witnessed, or if there is a question of the person’s mental capacity when the will was signed if it was signed under fraudulent circumstances, or under the undue influence of another person. 

Do wills hold up in court?

As long as the will meets all requirements of a valid will and testament in your state, the will should hold up in court. Should the court find any requirement not met by the will, it might be considered invalid. Should that happen, in most states, the person’s estate will be handled as if it were intestate. Usually, this means the first next of kin receives all assets. If no next of kin is found, the state keeps the assets.

Are last will and testament public record?

After a person dies, their last will and testament must be submitted to a local court to begin the probate process. This is the process in which the will is proven and assets are distributed. Once the will has gone through the probate process, it then becomes part of the public record.

A Woman Fills in a Will.

What should you never put in your will?

Your last will and testament is specifically used to distribute personal property and financial assets to heirs. In the will you shouldn’t add funeral wishes or requests, as these are not assets of any kind. You should also avoid listing any music, eBooks or other material in your “digital estate”. At this time, there is a lot of gray area involving digital material and digital bequests may not be enforceable. You might, however, want to bequeath account information and passwords to an heir. 

Jointly held property cannot be handed to a beneficiary, as the survivor retains full ownership of the property after your death. Accounts like life insurance policies also don’t fall under assets in your will as the beneficiary has already been named in the policy. Of course, you also don’t want to list any items as assets that are illegal like illicit drugs.

If you are drawing up a last will and testament in Philadelphia, PA, and need help doing so, let the professionals at People's Justice LLC guide you through the process. We offer a full range of advisory services on several legal matters. Get help today by calling 855-577-7673.