If I Write My Own Will, Do I Need A Lawyer To File It For Me At The Courts?

The title of this post came from a question I received last week. It’s one of many questions I receive each week that show significant confusion about the state’s laws regarding Wills. It also illustrates why I generally don’t recommend do-it-yourself estate planning.

The answer is that Texas statutes do not require filing a Will after it has been executed. While there is a procedure for depositing a Will with a clerk of the court for safekeeping, depositing the will is not mandatory and has no legal significance.

But when I read the question, I wondered: If the person posing the question is confused about this issue, what other areas of confusion might exist?

  1. Did she know that an attested will must be signed in the presence of two witnesses to be valid?
  2. Did she know that a holographic Will has to be completely in her handwriting?
  3. Did she think making a gift in a Will would override a beneficiary designation she previously made on an insurance policy?
  4. Did she make an outright distribution to a minor child or a child with special needs?
  5. Did she understand the importance of using a residuary clause in her Will?

And the list goes on.

Because if she did not know the answer to this question, she might not understand other intricacies in the law that may significantly affect how her property is distributed, who benefits from her estate, or whether her objectives will be accomplished.

There are many do-it-yourself Will preparation options. In fact, if one looks long enough, it is even possible to find a free Will form online. But DIY planning is fraught with risk.

An attorney can analyze your unique circumstances, explain the ramifications of your choices, advise you on the best way to accomplish your goals and objectives, and tailor your documents to address your unique estate planning needs. Document preparation services and canned forms do not.

Yes, it may cost more to have an attorney prepare your Will, but the money you save could be spent many times over after you die to correct mistakes about you were not even aware.

Isn’t the extra cost worth peace of mind?

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