What are do It Yourself Wills?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 15 January 2020
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Also known as last will and testament kits, do it yourself wills are documents that are drafted by individuals and contain their wishes for the distribution of their belongings and assets once they are deceased. Do it yourself wills are often touted as a cost-effective means of establishing a legally binding document that allows for the orderly transfer of the property of the deceased to his or her beneficiaries. However, many legal authorities advise against the use of these will kits, usually because of the lack of the ability for the kit to take into consideration fine points of local law that may be important to the drafting of this type of document.

Companies that produce and sell do it yourself wills often include basic boilerplates that contain simple language that is widely applicable to legal documents. These boilerplates are usually accompanied with instructions on how to insert specific provisions into the body of the document, creating what appears to be a perfectly legible last will and testament. Many of these kits also come with suggestions on what to include, as well as some questions about issues that should be explored before drafting the will.


Do it yourself wills have been around for a number of decades. In recent years, online wills have become a popular alternative for sending off for a printed version of the will kit. In some cases, these online wills are provided at no charge at all. The focus of these free wills is usually to get people who feel they cannot afford to pay for an attorney to draft a binding last will and testament to leave some type of document that makes their final wishes clear.

Unfortunately, there are several factors that can undermine the effectiveness of even the most well-crafted do it yourself will. One has to do with local laws that have to do with the collection of taxes or the establishment of trusts. While a will template can be used to cover most federal issues related to wills, they cannot address issues that are likely to vary somewhat from one local jurisdiction to another. This leaves open the possibility that do it yourself wills drafted using resources from another jurisdiction will not be considered valid in another area of the country.

While do it yourself wills may not be the complete answer, these kits can often pave the way for people putting their affairs in order and coming up with a legally binding will. Many of these kits can provide the basics that cause people to think of what they want done with their belongings after their demise. From this perspective, it is very possible to use the template in one of these kits to create a basic document that can then be reviewed by an attorney, and be used as a resource for drafting a will that will meet local legal standards.


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