Can I Write My Own Will in New Jersey?

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A question we hear a lot is, “Can I write my will without an attorney?” In New Jersey, the answer is Yes. In order to draft your last will and testament on your own, you can download forms that will help you. There are even software programs designed to help people write their own wills.

In fact, you don’t even need a notary in order to make your will legal. It is necessary for you to have at least two witnesses when you sign your will. These witnesses will be contacted after your death to verify your will. Having your DIY last will and testament notarized will help your will move through the court system more quickly, however. A notarized will does not have to be verified by the witnesses who signed it.

So, yes, you can write your own will, as long as it is signed by you in your own handwriting and you have witnesses. Easy peasy, pumpkin pie!

Or, is it?

Did you know you can also represent yourself in court if you’re charged with a crime? That’s right – you aren’t actually required to hire an attorney – you can be your own attorney.

I could also go home tonight, take apart my computer, and attempt to put it back together again. The parts are all there, and no one said I can’t do it! However, in the end I would have lost many fruitless hours and I’d be without a working computer.

My point being, that yes, in all technicality and legality, in New Jersey you can absolutely draft your own will. You can even appoint an executor for your estate. New Jersey law says you can do this all on your own, and you can buy the forms online and even in some stores.

But SHOULD YOU write your own will?

Well that is an entirely different question, and one that I have given a lot of thought to. Many of my clients come to me thinking that they have a very straightforward estate and that setting up their estate plan is going to be very simple, even with my help.

What often transpires is that my clients and I spend a lot of time drafting what they originally thought would be just a “basic will.” Questions about legal terminology, probate, living wills, power of attorney, (and more) always arise, and I am glad that I’m there to help my clients fully understand the importance of the document(s) we are drafting.

Additionally, I frequently have clients come to see me after they’ve made an attempt at drawing up their own will documents. Having run into too many hurdles and questions they didn’t have the answers to, in the end they decided it was best to have an experienced attorney’s assistance. Writing your own will can save you a little bit of money, but you can make some mistakes that will cost your loved ones greatly.

Please don’t let the cost of hiring an attorney hold you back from asking for help with your will. Our rates are very reasonable for estate planning help. If needed, you can even set up a payment plan. At the very least, you should take advantage of our free consultation, to learn whether or not you’re making any mistakes with your DIY estate plan.

Image credit: Matthew Hutchinson
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