Can I write my own Last Will and Testament?

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”

Handwritten Last Will and Testament

Holographic Will

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.

10 thoughts on “Can I write my own Last Will and Testament?

  1. Jessie Harrison Jessie Harrison says:

    If anything were to happen to my husband and me my kids would be left with nothing. I really need to get on top of this and create a will. I thought it’d save time to create it on my own, but that may not be smart. I think you’re right that it takes a someone with experience.

    • legalwills legalwills says:

      Thanks for the comment, but there are a couple of misconceptions here. Firstly, if you do not have a Will, your kids will not be left with nothing. In fact, the chances are they will end up with the same inheritance whether or not you have a Will, but the process is much more difficult without a Will. And if they are young, you will have missed the opportunity of choosing a guardian for them. So the courts will make that appointment for you. Also, it really doesn’t require professional help. It sounds like your situation lends itself to using a quality online interactive tool like ours. I would certainly encourage you to give it a try before paying hundreds of dollars for legal advice that you may not need.

  2. Scott Scott says:

    I appreciate that you suggest to consult with a lawyer if you have any questions or need advice when preparing your own will. I can see why this cost would be worth it to make sure that you don’t make any mistakes. My parents are getting a little older and should be thinking about making a will. I’ll have to ask them if they have started it and suggest using a lawyer if necessary.

    • legalwills legalwills says:

      Thanks for the comment Scott, but we actually say the opposite. In fact, we believe that most people do not need to pay for expensive legal advice in preparing their Will. Lawyer’s typically input information into Will writing software, which is the exact same software that we use, we just give people direct access to it. This comes with some distinct advantages; it’s the same end product at about a tenth the cost, the Will can be written in your own time, from the comfort of your home (in your pyjamas after you have put the kids to bed), and you can update it whenever circumstances change. Take the example of your alternate Executor becoming very ill. If you’ve written your Will with a lawyer you would almost certainly not take the time, or pay the high fees associated with updating your Will. But with our service, you just login to your account, make the update and your Will then reflects your current situation. It’s not just a cost saving, you actually end up with a better result.

  3. I can see why I “can” write a will, but probably shouldn’t. Like you mentioned, a well-drafted will is the goal, and I don’t think I could do it myself. Now that I’m getting a little older, I’ll be sure to start looking for help with this.

    • legalwills legalwills says:

      You can write your husband’s Will using our service. Just remember, that he would have to sign the document in the presence of two independent adult witnesses. He must have the mental capacity to understand that he is signing his Will, and know what the Will is describing.

  4. It’s good to learn about writing a will. Like you said, there is a difference between a good will and a correctly written will. My wife and I want to figure out our estate, so I guess we’ll look for a professional to help us with all of this.

  5. Monica Chavez Monica Chavez says:

    My parents are thinking about rewriting their last will and testament since my sister recently had a baby and they want to include their new grandchild in their will. I like how you mentioned that one of the basic requirements of a will that is must revoke or cancel previous wills. I wonder if there’s a way that my parents can keep their old will and simply make minor changes to it.

    • Expat Legal Wills Expat Legal Wills says:

      Hi Monica, no, we wouldn’t recommend making changes by altering an existing Will. Legally it can be done by annotating the document and then initialling the change, and having two witnesses initial the change, but it is opening you up to the risk of a challenge. The other option is a codicil which is a document attached to the Will that makes reference to a change in a particular clause. These were widely used to save the effort of typing a new document each time, but nowadays, there’s no real time saving, and they can make the intentions confusing. We recommend that you simply prepare a new document using a service like ours. It only takes about 20 minutes, and is a fraction of the cost of working with a lawyer, even to write up a codicil.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

two × 5 =