This is one of our most frequently asked questions, but it can mean one of two things;
A. Can I sit down with a blank piece of paper and write my own Last Will and Testament?
B. Can I prepare my own legal Will without using a legal professional.
Let us first explore question A.
Can I write my own Last Will and Testament?
The answer is “yes….but don’t”. The basic requirements of a Will are simple;
- The document must be clearly identified as a Will, and that it is expressing your wishes.
- Ideally it should revoke (or cancel) previous Wills
- You must demonstrate that you have the capacity to make a Will
- You must sign it in the presence of two witnesses (unless the document is entirely handwritten in which case witnesses are usually not required). The witnesses cannot be beneficiaries, but can be any adults with mental capacity. No legal training is required in order to be a witness to the signing of the Will.
- The Will should describe the distribution of assets to beneficiaries
If all of these requirements are met, then you would have a legal Last Will and Testament. As a result, we sometimes hear of people writing their Will on a piece of wood or on the side of a tractor . Specifically the Will written on the tractor was scratched while the testator was pinned underneath and said “In case I die in this mess, I leave all to the wife. – Cecil George Harris”
However, it is a bad idea, even if you are planning to research and type your Will. There is a difference between a Will that just about works, and a well-drafted Will.
If you prepare your Will with no legal training you may forget to name an Executor, or alternate Executor. You would also need to include guardians for minor children, and create trusts for those children. You should also include provisions for alternate beneficiaries (what would have happened to Cecil’s estate if his wife died in the shock of hearing about the accident?”). A well written Will would include a residual beneficiary. In addition, your Will should typically grant powers to the Executor which determine how the estate will be handled and distributed.
A Will at www.expatlegalwills.com includes about 15-20 clauses and is usually about 6-8 pages long. It would be impossible for somebody with no training to prepare this Will.
Which brings us to question B;
Can I prepare my own legal Will without paying for a lawyer?
The answer is a resounding yes, for most people.
There is no legal requirement to use a lawyer, attorney or solicitor to prepare your Will. If you need legal advice, then you should absolutely pay the professional fees for this advice, but most people do not need legal advice when preparing their Will. If you examine any country’s legal statutes on Will writing, there is never any mention of requiring professional legal advice.
Our service at www.expatlegalwills.com gives you the tools that are used by attorneys in the US and Canada, and solicitors in the UK. Which means that even if you are living in Dubai, Australia or Spain, you can create a Will to cover your UK assets. If you are a US citizen living in Mexico or Canada, you can still create your US Last Will and Testament. And Canadians living in Hong Kong or China can prepare their Will by simply stepping through the service and signing the completed document in the presence of two witnesses.
It’s actually far easier than trying to find a local lawyer with experience in estate planning law for each country.
The process only takes about 20-30 minutes and is something that every adult needs.
President and founder of the LegalWills group including USLegalWills.com, LegalWills.ca, LegalWills.co.uk and ExpatLegalWills.com.
He has over 20 years of experience helping people to write their Will and other estate planning documents. He has been interviewed by many of the major news media outlets and has contributed to articles in most leading publications. He has also contributed to a number of financial planning books.
Throughout his career, Tim has written extensively on the subject of Will writing and estate planning.
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