Do You Really Save Money by Drafting Your Own Will?

It happens several times each year – a client walks into my office with a document entitled “Last Will and Testament” and asks me to review it. The document is always a Will that the client attempted to draft on his or her own. In some cases they used a form book from the library, in other cases they used an online service or a software program which they purchased. Some will attempt to copy another Will, either their own prior Will or someone else’s. In most cases, the document does not meet the requirements for a Will in the State of New Jersey which means the person may either have no Will at all or one that requires a court to interpret.

When I ask why they attempted to draft their own Will, the most common answer I receive is that they wanted to save money. Other times they will tell me that they wrote the Will themselves because an attorney refused to prepare the Will they way they wanted it. One client told me he drafted his own Will because he did not understand the “legalese” he saw in Wills and wanted a Will that he and his family could understand.

Most of these reasons are not valid. The most common reason people try to make their own Wills is to save money. This is most often an illusion. In Ocean County the average cost of having an attorney prepare a Will varies from $100 to $200. The cost of having to go to court if the Will is not drafted properly can be as high as $2,500 to $3,000. Worse, a court could rule that there is no Will at all, thus subjecting the estate to go through administration, where the cost of posting a surety bond could easily exceed $1,000.00 each year. Clearly, any savings of trying to write your own Will could be wiped out by the potential costs if the Will is not drafted properly.

Some people will try to draft Wills themselves because they want to use certain wording. Often the wording that they choose is not legal, confusing or impractical to carry out. Wills are drafted by attorneys using concepts that date back to medieval England and terms which have a specific meaning in the law. Often those concepts and terms are not readily understood by the non-lawyer. By attempting to draft a Will using common English, a person may create an ambiguity that can only be resolved by a court at great expense to the person’s estate.

Your Will is the most important document you will ever sign. Have it prepared by an attorney knowledgeable in estate law rather than try to do it yourself. The modest cost of having an attorney prepare the Will is offset by the potential costs of an improperly drafted Will. The attorneys at R.C. Shea and Associates have been preparing Wills for more than 75 combined years. Let us prepare your Will for you.

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