I am often asked if a DIY Will is valid. The answer is: “It Depends” If you are on a gameshow, the correct answer is that a Do It Yourself Will is valid. This is technically true. I am free to write my will on a paper towel. The real question is: How long will my loved ones be tied up in court with my DIY masterpiece? The laws of every state give a presumption of legitimacy to a will that was executed under the supervision of an attorney. The logical flip side to this, is that a fill in the blanks template from my Suze Ormon kit will be subjected to a higher level of court scrutiny. Is the system rigged to try to steer more business to Trusts and Estates attorneys? Possibly, in part. However, the overriding reason for the probate process which entails rigorous scrutiny of the will document, testimony of those present for the signing and often investigations for possible unknown next of kin is to ensure that the “Testator” was of sound mind at the time of signing and that he or she knew that the document being signed was a will. The law seeks to guard against a frail or elderly person signing a document that he thinks is changing his cell phone carrier, but is actually a will leaving assets to unintended recipients.
Having practiced in this area of the law for more than 20 years, I could write a will in my sleep. I did not, however, write my own will. This is because I want to make things smooth for my family (hopefully many moons from now). This is in sharp contrast to Aretha Franklin’s family fighting over the legitimacy of the handwritten document found under the late singers couch cushions.