Part 1:
No, you do not need a lawyer to prepare a will. You can prepare what is called a Holographic Will by writing it out in your own handwriting with nothing else on the paper. You cannot use a letterhead from a business or hotel and you cannot use a stamp for the date let alone typing anything! Any of preceding items would make the proposed WILL invalid. A Holographic Will, has to be dated and signed and show that it was meant to be a will, in other words that it had TESTAMENTARY INTENT. Your holographic should state “This is My Last Will and Testament, dated February 14, 2013 in Palm Desert California.”
The question is not whether you can prepare a will on your own, but rather, whether you should hire a lawyer to prepare a will for you. The answer is a clear YES. You should not do it yourself. A Will is not that expensive to have an attorney prepare and the consequences of failing to prepare it right are very serious. For instance if you want to leave $1,000,000 to each of your two children and you give one a $1,000,000 bequest and the other a diamond or home worth a million, then what happens if the diamond or home is sold before you die. The answer is that the son to whom you left the diamond or home gets nothing because it is no longer in existence. The other sons still get his $1,000,000.
In addition you may need estate planning that goes beyond the need for a will. You may want to put a home in a trust or buy life insurance to pay the estate taxes. Legal advice can be invaluable in those circumstances. A few years ago I had a radio program and I opened each show with the saying “People Don’t Plan to Fail, They Fail to Plan”. Many well educated and famous, people whose name you know did not plan ahead.
When U.S. Senator Robert Kerr of Oklahoma died he left an estate valued at $20,000,000. The IRS immediately demanded $9,000,000 from his astonished heirs. However market conditions at the time meant the family would have to sell various stocks and real estate at a substantial loss…just to pay the sudden taxes. They liquidated what they could but could only raise $3,000,000. Thus they had to borrow the other $6,000,000. In the end most of the estate went to interest payments and the IRS and not to the beloved family and very frustrated heirs. They went into debt.
If this can happen to the $20,000,000 fortune of a well-educated U.S. Senator (and long standing member of the Senate Finance Committee), then everyone is fair game. You know with a high profile case like this that thousands of “smaller fish” are getting fried. In addition, many famous people have died without Estate Planning and their estate was a mess. Walt Disney, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller are a few who did not plan ahead. They failed to plan.
When I have lectured and asked the question “Have you completed an estate plan?” I get answers as follows:


Widow: “I don’t really have an estate; I only have some money in a checking account, some personal jewelry and my dog Bella.”
Domestic Partner: “I don’t really have an estate. Kevin and I have a house in joint tenancy so, when I die, it will bypass Probate and pass directly to Bill… isn’t that right?.”
Grandparent: “I made a Will about 10 years ago before having grandkids. I’m sure it covers everything.”
Well, the good news is that, whoever you are, however old you are and regardless of how little or how much money or other assets you have, YOU DO HAVE AN ESTATE!!! The bad news is that, UNLESS YOU TAKE THE TIME to ensure that both you and what you have is safely monitored; your community estate could be a mess.
What if you should become INCAPACITATED? Do you have an Advanced Health Care Directive? Is it on file at your hospital? In April 2012 I took my mother in law to Eisenhower and was surprised when they asked her if she had her Health Care Directive on File with the hospital. I had a copy in my office but not in the hospital. We didn’t then realize that it would help if you filed it at the hospital and then did not have to go home to get it. Eisenhower now has a health care directive on file for our entire family.
Every reader should put this Coachella Valley Weekly down and do the same….today. A health care directive is VERY INEXPENSIVE in our office because we do not want to see our neighbors in the CV get in trouble because they have not have planned ahead and become terminally ill……….SO CALL TODAY at 760 341 4411.