Can You Write a Will Without an Estate Planning Lawyer?
You can draft a Will without an estate planning attorney—but should you?
One of the most important legal documents individuals should create is a Last Will and Testament. But what is a Will? Why do you need one? And are there other alternatives to this legal document in Arizona?
Below, you can find the answers to these questions and many more. And if you have additional questions about a Will or estate planning in general, we strongly encourage you to contact our legal team and schedule an appointment with a skilled estate planning attorney from our firm in Arizona.
What is a Will?
In general, a Will (sometimes called a "Last Will and Testament") is a legal document that outlines a person's wishes after their death for the distribution of their assets and other property, which is often collectively referred to as a person's estate.
In addition, a Will might also contain other legally-binding instructions from the deceased person. Such instructions can include:
- Naming an executor, the legal term for the person responsible for carrying out the instructions included in a Will.
- Listing who inherits the assets listed in the Will. The people who receive these assets are known as the beneficiaries.
- Additional instructions specifying exactly when and how the beneficiaries receive the assets.
- Appointing legal guardians for any children of the deceased person.
Why do I need a Will?
Some people might think they don't need a Will, especially if they believe they don't have a lot of assets or if they're married. Your spouse will automatically inherit everything even if there's no Will, right?
Don't be so sure. Numerous legal issues can arise, especially if there is no Will at the time of someone's death. And people often have more assets than they might realize, especially if they're homeowners.
Having a Will or a similar legally-binding document can make distributing a person's assets much easier after their death. Otherwise, a surviving spouse and other family members might spend a great deal of time and money distributing someone's assets.
What happens to my estate if I don't have a Will?
If someone does not have a Will or any type of estate plan, surviving family members, friends, and other important people might not know how to distribute a person's assets. In addition, if someone does not have a Will, a person's estate can often be tied up in probate court for a long time. The rules vary from state to state, but for the family, going through the probate process can be a painful and costly experience.
In Arizona, the estate for someone who dies without a Will or another type of estate plan is often given to surviving family members based on the state's "intestate succession" laws. This means a person's assets are often given to the deceased person's surviving spouse, children, and other descendants.
However, the distribution of assets can easily become complicated if there are many surviving descendants and if anyone claims they have a right to inherit all or part of someone's estate. This is why it's important for individuals to have a legally binding Last Will and Testament.
Are there alternatives to a Will?
Along with a Last Will and Testament, several other legally-binding documents can be created to specify a person's wishes after their death. Such documents include:
- Creating a Trust – A trust is a financial entity that manages a person's assets, sometimes during their lifetime and after their death. There are many different types of trusts.
- Designating a power of attorney – A power of attorney is a legal document that designates someone to make legal decisions on someone's behalf in the event that the person who created the power of attorney cannot make important decisions, often due to an incapacitating illness or injury.
- Creating a Living Will – A Living Will is a legal document that explains a person's medical wishes in the event that the individual who created the Living Will can no longer make such decisions.
How to prepare a Will
The best way to start creating a Will is to simply write down what you would like to happen to your assets and other property after your death. For example, do you want all your assets to be given to certain surviving family members and friends? Or would you like to give some of your assets to a charity or another non-profit organization?
The next step would be to name who you would like to administer your Will and ensure your wishes are fulfilled after your death. This person is the executor of your Will and will be legally responsible for making sure your Will is respected.
Talk to an estate planning lawyer about your options.
You might think you don't need an attorney to create a Last Will and Testament, especially if you clearly know what you want to do with your assets. But you would be surprised how complicated creating a Will can be, especially if you have a fair number of assets and beneficiaries.
Remember, if there are any problems with your Will after your death, your Will might be declared invalid. This can result in significant delays and expenses after your death. As a result, instead of surviving family members inheriting your assets, they could spend considerable time and money in probate court dealing with various legal issues.
An experienced estate planning lawyer at the Law Firm of Brown & Jensen in Arizona can help you create a legally-binding Will that clearly outlines your wishes. Our attorneys are well-versed in the state and federal laws that apply to estate planning in Arizona. We can also explain the tax implications and different financial options often associated with various types of estate planning documents.
Learn more about your legal options. Contact our law firm and schedule an appointment with an Arizona estate planning attorney you can trust. We conveniently have eight offices throughout Arizona, including those in Mesa, Tucson, and Scottsdale.