If you’re in the mood to write a legal will, you might be wondering what it needs to contain. Can you write it on the back of a bar napkin? Can you leave your entire estate to your beloved Mr. Snuffles? And do you really need a lawyer?
We’ve compiled all these answers (and more!) in the post below.
What Makes a Will “Legal”?
The guidelines are pretty simple. You must:
- Be of sound mind.
- Have two witnesses (usually people who don’t stand to inherit or gain anything under the will).
- Sign and date the will.
So in our bar napkin example, it’s entirely possible to create a legal will. However, the court may choose to invalidate it based on the assumption that you were intoxicated at the time it was written, or if there is any question over the identity of your witnesses.
The best way to ensure neither of these poses an issue for you and your will is to have the signatures performed in front of a notary public. While not required, it can drastically simplify the court proceedings and help speed the case through the system.
Do You Need to File the Will with Some Branch of the Government?
In short? No. As long as you keep it in a safe and secure location, your executor should have no problem during probate.
However, some states do allow you to record and file a copy just in case. So if you’re worried about your family trying to fraudulently modify the document after the fact, you are certainly welcome to file it, or leave a sealed copy with your attorney. It just depends on your local law and what will make you feel most comfortable.
Do You REALLY Need a Lawyer to Write a Legal Will?
Well, it depends. If your will is simple and straightforward, and no one is going to contest it after you’re gone, then there’s a chance you may not need an attorney. However, if you have multiple beneficiaries, are trying to dictate the distribution of a large number of assets or establish the guidelines of continued care for a family member (we’re looking at you, Mr. Snuffles), then you absolutely should hire a lawyer.
In cases like these, the document needs to be very explicit and specific regarding the treatment and distribution of funds. It’s not something you want to leave to chance, or else poor Mr. Snuffles might not even end up with his doghouse.
Let Us Help You Come to Peace with Your Estate
Even if you’re considering doing it all yourself, it never hurts to have a second set of eyes on things.
For a complimentary, confidential consultation about how to write a legal will, call the Reeder Law Firm at (770) 475-2521.