Can’t you just write your own Will, in a notebook or on a slip of paper?
What about on a cocktail napkin, or a piece of cardboard?
The answer in Massachusetts is, for the most part, no. But believe it or not, people sure do try.
Massachusetts Wills, among other things, requires two witnesses and a notary. Anything else, whether written on paper or on something else, is what we call a “holographic Will” and Massachusetts does not recognize them. Lots of folks think that if they clearly write things out in a notebook, that they can save themselves the costs of having a lawyer draft the Will.
There are several problems with this:
- You need two witnesses and a notary
- You need clauses with regard to “proving” certain aspects of the Will
- You just don’t know what you don’t know. For example:
- Are you electing the most streamlined form of probate? New forms became available in 2012.
- Are you giving your Personal Representative (formerly called Executor) authority to properly deal with your assets, including real estate? Real estate powers have to be explicitly stated.
- Are you clear about who your beneficiaries are? What if they predecease you? What if they die a few days after you?
- What about assets you want to leave to your children but you want them protected if your child got divorced?
- Are any of your beneficiaries under 18? If so, who controls the money?
- Did you name guardians for your underage children?
- What about estate taxes?
The bottom line is that, if you are not trained in drafting these documents, you simply don’t know what questions to ask yourself. Don’t try this at home. Hire the right expert, and trust that expert’s advice.
You don’t want to get this wrong.
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