Categories
Family Law

Can I Write A Last Will and Testament On My Own?

Can I Write A Last Will and Testament On My Own?

Kim Raemdonck

Share Post:

Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on email

While you can technically write a will without the help of a lawyer, a notary, and witnesses, it is a dangerous option with the potential to fail entirely.

There are several formal requirements for a will. Formally, wills must be signed by their author (also referred to as the testator), and must be either (a) signed by two witnesses who witnessed the testator’s signature, or (b) notarized by a notary public (though to be safe, most lawyers will make sure that both (a) and (b) happen). However, these requirements are not absolute. Their purpose is to ensure that the will accurately and completely reflects the testator’s intention, and when that intention can be otherwise guaranteed, a will you write without the help of a lawyer may still be valid.

There are several ways to write your own will. One possibility is to write a holographic will, or a handwritten will. A holographic will is valid as a will so long as:

  1. It is in the testator’s own handwriting;
  2. It is clear from the language of the document that the testator intends the document to serve as his or her will;
  3. It is signed by the testator.

Therefore, if you handwrite your will, call it your will within the document itself, and sign it at the end, you can technically write a will in this way without the aid of a lawyer.

Another possibility is to simply write your own will in any format, sign it, and leave sufficient evidence that you intended the document to be your will. Again, where the purpose of the formal will requirements is otherwise fulfilled—that is, where it is clear that the will contains the testator’s true testamentary intentions—the probate court will not enforce the formal requirements of the will.

However, if you choose to write your own will, you run some serious risks. Though it is technically possible to avoid the formal will requirements, it is rather dangerous. A will that meets the formal requirements is consider self-proving—that is, the page the contains the witness signatures and the notary stamp is considered sufficient proof, within the will itself, that the will is valid. Lacking these formalities, a probate court must examine external evidence to determine whether the will is valid. For example, if you write a holographic will, your beneficiaries must prove in court that the will is in your handwriting. This can be a time-consuming and expensive process, and it is not even guaranteed to work! It is entirely possible that your beneficiaries could fail to prove that you wrote the will, or that you intended it to be a will at all, in which case all of your wishes would become invalid.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

OF COUNSEL

Kim Raemdonck was born in Galveston, Texas, and raised in Fort Worth, Texas. She graduated magna cum laude from Texas A&M University with honors. Kim went on to attend the University of Denver Sturm College of Law where she obtained a J.D. and an L.L.M. in taxation. She is admitted to practice law in Colorado and Texas and before the United States District Court for the District of Colorado and the United States Tax Court.

More Articles

Employment Law

Can Vaccination Requirements be Enforced in the Workplace?

As COVID-19 continues to rage across the country, the question of vaccines – and whether they can be imposed on an individual or not – is a hotly debated topic. Folks have strong opinions on both sides of the discussion. Some stand for individual liberties, arguing the individual’s choice is more important. Others argue for the collective, contending that one person’s liberty should not come at the expense of exposing the group. As an employment lawyer, I get a lot of questions from my clients asking whether they can force their employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine. As we’ve written about in prior blog posts, the answer is a qualified yes.

Read More »
B Corp

Steps Small Businesses Can Take to Combat Climate Change

The science is clear, and when we look outside and see smoke-ridden skies, experience unprecedented flooding, or suffer the consequences of historic droughts, it’s in our face: climate change is here. Our climate and environment are changing–and how we interact with it should change.

As the recent and somewhat terrifying UN Report informed us, we are well past the point of stopping climate change. But we can slow it down. And we need to slow it down.

Read More »
Real Estate Law

The Lasting Impact of Covid-19 on Commercial Lease Negotiations

When COVID-19 struck businesses in March of 2020, many assumed the impact would be short-lived, that after a few weeks of shutdowns and lock-ins, business and life would return to normal. Now, well over a year later, and with new variants and surges emerging despite vaccines, the question is: when, how, or even if, a return to offices will occur. Employees are increasingly likely to seek other opportunities if their employers press a return to full-time, in-person work. Job seekers have also begun prioritizing remote work options when looking for new jobs.

Read More »
Categories
Estate Planning

Pet Trusts: Estate Planning for Your Pets in Colorado

Pet Trusts: Estate Planning for Your Pets in Colorado

Kim Raemdonck

Share Post:

Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on email

Originally published at Legacy Planning & Probate by Kim Raemdonck.

Many of us consider our pets to be a part of our families, but what many may not realize is that we can plan for our beloved animals in our estate planning documents. Have you thought about who you would want to care for your pets in the event of your death? Should you leave their caretakers a certain amount of money to cover expenses? If you have multiple pets, would you want them all to go to the same loving home?  All of these issues (and more) can be addressed in your documents. 

Furthermore, much like one can create a trust to benefit his or her loved ones, Colorado law allows us to create what are colloquially known as “pet trusts.” A pet trust can be used to guarantee that your animal companions would be cared for – emotionally and financially – in the event of your death or disability. Setting up this type of trust can ensure that your pet goes to the caregiver of your choice, that this caregiver has the funds necessary to take care of your pet over a period of time, and that the caretaker maintains your pets’ current standard of living.

You may be asking yourself how do I go about creating a pet trust?

Similar to creating a trust for a family member, an experienced estate planning attorney can assist you in drafting these documents while catering a plan to fit what you want for your pet’s future. Some things to consider when creating a pet trust include (1) your pet’s current standard of care, (2) who you would like to act as caregiver, and (3) the amount you estimate the caregiver will need to handle pet-related expenses. It is also important to think about how you would like the remaining trust assets to be distributed once your pet has passed away. If you already have an existing estate plan, a pet trust can easily be incorporated into your existing documents. Alternatively, your current documents can be amended to include a simple provision regarding your animals. Reach out to Kim Raemdonck for assistance in planning for your furry friends!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

OF COUNSEL

Kim Raemdonck was born in Galveston, Texas, and raised in Fort Worth, Texas. She graduated magna cum laude from Texas A&M University with honors. Kim went on to attend the University of Denver Sturm College of Law where she obtained a J.D. and an L.L.M. in taxation. She is admitted to practice law in Colorado and Texas and before the United States District Court for the District of Colorado and the United States Tax Court.

More Articles

Employment Law

Colorado’s Equal Pay for Equal Work Act: What Employers Should Know

Colorado’s Equal Pay for Equal Work ACT (“EPEWA”) became effective January 1, 2021, and all companies that employ Coloradans should be aware of its provision—which may require an update to employer practices and policies—to avoid liability. By enacting EPEWA, the Colorado legislature seeks to prohibit wage discrimination on the basis of sex, which includes gender identity, or on the basis of sex combined with another protected trait such as disability, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, religion, age, or ancestry.

Read More »
Entrepreneur & Startup

Setting your Startup on the Path to Success: Four Tips for Choosing Your Company Brand Name and Logo

I remember when the graphic designer I hired came up with the initial logo for our law firm. Seeing it on mockups for a website and for business cards was a surreal experience. It reduced the months of planning and research into something tangible and real. It hit me so quickly—this is really happening—and I was filled with pride in what was to come.

Read More »
Family Law

Can I Write A Last Will and Testament On My Own?

There are several formal requirements for a will. Formally, wills must be signed by their author (also referred to as the testator), and must be either (a) signed by two witnesses who witnessed the testator’s signature, or (b) notarized by a notary public (though to be safe, most lawyers will make sure that both (a) and (b) happen). However, these requirements are not absolute. Their purpose is to ensure that the will accurately and completely reflects the testator’s intention, and when that intention can be otherwise guaranteed, a will you write without the help of a lawyer may still be valid.

Read More »