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What Is a Form Will?
A form will is a document that you can purchase that contains the legal language needed to write a will. The form leaves blank spaces for personal information such as names and addresses.
Are Form Wills Recognized by Law?
Form wills are recognized by law as valid wills. However, one should be very wary of using a form will for a number of important reasons:
- They do not allow you to take into account special circumstances
- They usually do not take into account important matters like federal and state estate taxes
- They give little to no guidance on how to properly execute a will
- They are slow to accommodate possible changes in law
As a result of these deficiencies, form wills keep people from setting up an estate plan that would most benefit their estate and family after they die. Also, because of the over-simplified approach, form wills make it easier for people to contest the will.
Finally, while form wills are technically legal, because of the problems mentioned above, courts tend to look more closely at the validity of a form will. This results in a slower legal process for probating the estate, which often mean more expense and frustration for the people who have to manage your estate after you die.
What Happens If I Try to Modify the Will by Writing on It?
This will depend on your state's laws. In general:
- First, the state must recognize handwritten wills.
- Second, of the states that do recognize holographic wills, some states might insist that the handwritten portion meet other requirements. For instance, the state might require that the handwritten portion be signed and dated.
- Third, courts in states which do recognize holographic wills can have two different ways of reading handwriting on a form will.
Some courts might consider the handwritten part as part of the will. This approach takes into consideration the context of the form when dealing with the handwritten portion.
Other courts might consider the handwriting without the context. The handwritten portion must be a coherent and valid will by itself or the court will ignore it.
Can I Revoke a Form Will by Writing on It?
The answer will depend on the state. Some states only permit a revocation of the will by a subsequent writing, such as a new will. In other states, physical destruction of the will might be the best course of action.
In other states, it is possible to revoke a form will by writing on it. In most of the states which recognize revocation by writing on the form, the person is required to write over the words of the will. The original form must be the will defaced; revoking a copy of the form is generally not effective.
Do I Need an Estate Planning Attorney?
If you are considering using a form will, please speak to an estate planning attorney before doing so. It is almost certain that your financial and family situation may experience complications that should be dealt with in a personalized will.
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Last Modified: 01-31-2014 04:38 PM PST
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