The word is “don’t”. But people sometimes still do, because they think it will save money, believe their family issues are too complicated, or fear revealing certain family secrets to an outsider.

Joe, a business owner and part-time artist, was 49 when he passed away suddenly. Upon his death, his family began going through his things looking for a Will. Joe was young and in relative good health, so no one had thought to talk with him about his wishes in the event of his death…not even his estranged wife, with whom he had no children. Joe’s sister wanted his life-sized charcoal drawings. Joe’s mother wanted to retrieve family heirlooms she had gifted to Joe. Some of Joe’s close friends wanted this item or that. But Joe’s wife was, by law, his closing living relative, and so the decisions were hers.

After several days of searching for a Will, a family member stumbled upon a tape recording Joe had made years earlier, before boarding a flight to Hawaii. Loud and clear, Joe’s voice enumerated who among his family members should receive which items. But the Will did not hold up in court. It wasn’t voice dated. It wasn’t signed in any measurable way. No attorney had reviewed it. In the end, Joe’s wife enforced her legal rights and kept it all.

And by the way, on the day Joe died, he had received his divorce papers in the mail. They were found spread out on his kitchen counter, with a pen at the ready. Looks like the unhappy experience of Joe’s family could have been quite different, had those divorce papers been signed.

The DIY Will
If this is your only option, sometimes (not very often) you can write your Will on a piece of paper yourself. If it is signed, dated and witnessed by you, it MAY work. Chances are, it won’t!

Homemade wills are a curse. Where

[there is no] dispute, no difficulties may arise. But [when] the estate of the deceased is substantial, the will is opaque and there is no agreement among the beneficiaries, the inevitable result is an expensive legal battle…”
~Supreme Court Master Craig Sanderson”

A DIY Will from the Post Office
We investigate this scenario in chapter two. Unless your circumstances are very simple and you complete the paperwork correctly to the letter, it is unlikely this option will work. In a few cases, it may.

An Online Will
Depending on the provider, these can be dangerous. Many online Wills are not solicitor drafted or checked after you have signed them. They may not reflect complicated circumstances that arise from your family situation. If you do consider a quick and easy online Will, look closely at the provider’s website to see if the documents have been prepared by a solicitor or are checked by a solicitor before you receive them.

In any case where you may want to create your own Will, it is vital to research regulations in your locale and well worth your money to ask an attorney to go over the Will to ensure it is legal. Don’t assume that all websites and all Internet forms are infallible. Nor should you assume that once a person is deceased, nothing more can be done about the division of his or her estate. Get a lawyer or an attorney’s approval on your DIY Will!