Can I Write My Own Will?

The short answer to this question is, “Yes.”  However, the form and execution must comply with certain formalities.  A.R.S. § 14-2501 states, “A person who is eighteen years of age or older and who is of sound mind may make a will.”  Arizona recognizes both wills that are executed pursuant to Arizona law and wills which were executed in compliance with “the law at the time of execution of the place where the will is executed, or of the law of the place where at the time of execution or at the time of death the testator is domiciled, has a place of abode or is a national.”  A.R.S. § 14-2506.  Wills executed per Arizona law must be: 1) in writing; 2) signed by the testator or in the testator’s name by some other individual in the testator’s conscious presence and by the testator’s direction; 3) signed by at least two people, each of whom signed within a reasonable time after that person witnessed either the signing of the will or the testator’s acknowledgment of that signature or acknowledgment of the will.  A.R.S. § 14-2502.  To be a will there must also be “testamentary intent,” meaning that “the writing, together with whatever extrinsic evidence may be admissible, establish that the testator intended such writing to dispose of his property upon his death.”  Matter of Estate of Muder, 159 Ariz. 173, 175, 765 P.2d 997, 999 (1988).

One notable exception to the mandates of A.R.S. § 14-2502, is a holographic will. Arizona recognizes a will “if the signature and the material provisions are in the handwriting of the testator,” regardless of whether or not it is witnessed.  A.R.S. § 14-2503.  The Arizona Supreme Court has even found a fill-in-the-blank form will to be a valid holographic will and the “printed portions of the will form [are] incorporated into the handwritten portion of the holographic will as long as the testamentary intent of the testator is clear and the protection afforded by requiring the material provisions be in the testator’s handwriting is present.”  Muder, 159 Ariz. at 176, 765 P.2d at 1000.  The Supreme Court clarified:

We hold that a testator who uses a preprinted form, and in his own handwriting fills in the blanks by designating his beneficiaries and apportioning his estate among them and signs it, has created a valid holographic will. Such handwritten provisions may draw testamentary context from both the printed and the handwritten language on the form. We see no need to ignore the preprinted words when the testator clearly did not, and the statute does not require us to do so.

Id.  Consequently, we have seen quite the upswing in the creation of legal form companies.

After reading this post, you may think that you will simply go purchase a form will or maybe even be daring enough to write a will on your own.  To these daredevils, I wish to offer a word of caution.  This post merely discusses the formalities of a will.  It does not discuss mandatory or optional language which must/can be included in a will.  Similarly, it does not discuss the legal maxims of interpretation used to decipher the language of a will.  Potential clients often ask if it will be okay for them to put together their own wills.  Be advised that Probate attorneys will make far more money litigating over the validity and/or meaning of their will than they would if the client had an appropriate estate plan.  Please contact the experienced attorneys at Holland Law Group, PLLC for all of your estate planning needs.