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Should You Write Your Own Will?

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Should you write your own will?

Writing a will shouldn’t be that hard. There’s plenty of online help and advice, and forms readily available. Shouldn’t you be able to write your own will?

What could go wrong?

Before you consider whether to write your own will, think about the kinds of problems that might arise. If the problems are not great, and the process is simplified, you might decide to do it yourself.

You might make a technical mistake. Arizona court files are full of cases in which someone didn’t get enough witnesses, or didn’t use the right language. Most (not all) of those cases involve DIY efforts. In one, an unmarried couple acted as if they were married. In another, the signer got a notary but not the two required witnesses. Plenty of people modify their wills even though their property all belongs to the trust they created years ago.

You might not consider all the complications. Lawyers spend considerable time thinking about unplanned events. It’s not that we’re ghoulish — we just know that people become disabled, or die in unanticipated sequences. We are not counting on your children disagreeing with one another, but we have seen it happen.

You might not know all the things you should do. Most people understand that they should sign a will. But do they know that they should also sign a health care power of attorney, or a financial power of attorney? Should they consider whether they need a trust? We have some thoughts on those things, and we’d like to share them with you.

Your estate plan is more than just your will. People often have conflicting provisions. After you write your own will, what should you do about beneficiary designations? Is the answer the same for your life insurance, your bank account and your retirement account?

You won’t have a chance to go through the interview process with an expert. We (lawyers) don’t just sell documents. We sell advice, consultation and thoughtful analysis. Then we prepare documents. In a majority of initial client interviews, we hear at least one “I hadn’t thought about that.” We have thought about that.

But you’re smart, and you have the internet at your command

Indeed, you are and you do. The truth is that most often the self-prepared documents we see are adequate, if not perfectly fine.

But here’s a reality to consider: if you make a mistake, you will likely never know it. When it becomes a problem, by definition you won’t be available to fix it. We won’t even be able to ask you what you meant.

By choosing to write your own will, you also will give up the opportunity to consider other options we might suggest. You also miss the chance to find out how your will, your beneficiary designations and your other documents interrelate with one another.

We’ve thought a lot about whether you should write your own will. We write and speak about it often.

But we’re not fools. We know that you might decide to write your own will even after we tell you to come talk with us. Can we help keep you out of serious trouble? We might be able to.

Can you write your own will and then bring it to us for review?

Sure. But you won’t save any money.

Why not? Because we are not selling documents. It takes us as long to interview you and figure out what needs to be done whether you have already done some things or not. If we have to read and review your DIY documents, that actually adds more time to the process.

Could we just look over your documents and tell you if they’re OK? No, we don’t want to do that. We don’t want to assure you that the documents are fine when we weren’t involved with creating, executing or maintaining them. We’re uncomfortable putting our reputation — and our liability — on the line for other people’s work. You shouldn’t be comfortable with us if we were willing to do it.

If you really, really want to write your own will, what should you do?

We don’t mean to approve any particular program, but there are widely-accepted software packages that help you prepare estate planning documents. They are likely to keep you from making some of the most common mistakes.

If the software package you use asks a lot of questions and requires complete information, that suggests that it is designed better than the fill-in-the-blanks form you downloaded. Of course, that also means that it is more work to complete. Also, it is probably more expensive.

What should you do now?

Call us (assuming, of course, that you’re looking for a Tucson elder law attorney). Make an appointment to discuss your estate plan. Give us a chance to show you that we can help. Let us explain how we add value to the estate planning process.

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Robert B. Fleming


Robert Fleming is a Fellow of both the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. He has been certified as a Specialist in Estate and Trust Law by the State Bar of Arizona‘s Board of Legal Specialization, and he is also a Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation. Robert has a long history of involvement in local, state and national organizations. He is most proud of his instrumental involvement in the Special Needs Alliance, the premier national organization for lawyers dealing with special needs trusts and planning.

Robert has two adult children, two young grandchildren and a wife of over fifty years. He is devoted to all of them. He is also very fond of Rosalind Franklin (his office companion corgi), and his homebound cat Muninn. He just likes people, their pets and their stories.

Elizabeth N.R. Friman


Elizabeth Noble Rollings Friman is a principal and licensed fiduciary at Fleming & Curti, PLC. Elizabeth enjoys estate planning and helping families navigate trust and probate administrations. She is passionate about the fiduciary work that she performs as a trustee, personal representative, guardian, and conservator. Elizabeth works with CPAs, financial professionals, case managers, and medical providers to tailor solutions to complex family challenges. Elizabeth is often called upon to serve as a neutral party so that families can avoid protracted legal conflict. Elizabeth relies on the expertise of her team at Fleming & Curti, and as the Firm approaches its third decade, she is proud of the culture of care and consideration that the Firm embodies. Finding workable solutions to sensitive and complex family challenges is something that Elizabeth and the Fleming & Curti team do well.

Amy F. Matheson


Amy Farrell Matheson has worked as an attorney at Fleming & Curti since 2006. A member of the Southern Arizona Estate Planning Council, she is primarily responsible for estate planning and probate matters.

Amy graduated from Wellesley College with a double major in political science and English. She is an honors graduate of Suffolk University Law School and has been admitted to practice in Arizona, Massachusetts, New York, and the District of Columbia.

Prior to joining Fleming & Curti, Amy worked for American Public Television in Boston, and with the international trade group at White & Case, LLP, in Washington, D.C.

Amy’s husband, Tom, is an astronomer at NOIRLab and the Head of Time Domain Services, whose main project is ANTARES. Sadly, this does not involve actual time travel. Amy’s twin daughters are high school students; Finn, her Irish Red and White Setter, remains a puppy at heart.

Famous people's wills

Matthew M. Mansour


Matthew is a law clerk who recently earned his law degree from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. His undergraduate degree is in psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Matthew has had a passion for advocacy in the Tucson community since his time as a law student representative in the Workers’ Rights Clinic. He also has worked in both the Pima County Attorney’s Office and the Pima County Public Defender’s Office. He enjoys playing basketball, caring for his cat, and listening to audiobooks narrated by the authors.