Gephardt: Is Your Will Good Enough To Ensure Your Will Will Be Done?

Apr 15, 2020, 7:05 AM | Updated: Apr 27, 2020, 9:23 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – We all know what a will is. It’s how you let people know what should happen with your stuff when you pass away.

However, it can still get messy. So the real question is: What’s a good will, and what’s a bad will? And how do you make sure yours is good so that when you die, your will is done?

Attorney Langdon Owens says he is busier than ever. He’s a lawyer who makes his bones writing up the dying wishes of clients.

“Wills are very important,” he said. “Everybody should have one.”

If you don’t make a will, the state makes it for you, Owens says.

“You might not like what the legislature’s come up with.”

There are specific rules that need to be followed in order for a will to be legal under Utah law.

if it’s typed or written by someone else, it must have two witnesses. Notarization is good, but not required.

Or, it counts if the entire will is in the deceased’s own hand writing.

“There’s an old story out of, I think it was Roosevelt, where a fella died and they found a handwritten will in the bottom of his cowboy boot,” Owens said. “It probably didn’t smell very good, but it was valid.”

After that, it’s what the document says that counts – and that’s where it can get really sticky.

A misplaced comma, an ambiguous statement or contradicting requests can land a will in court with people fighting it out over what the deceased meant to say.

Langdon cites a case with a will that had a very unique clause.

“He says, ‘I hate lawyers. I don’t want a lawyer having anything to do with my estate.’”

Trouble was the rest of the will wasn’t clear at all and “just didn’t work,” Langdon said.

In the end, there were more lawyers involved in that case than there are in most other estate cases.

“He’s probably spinning in his grave,’ Langdon said.

It’s an anecdotal lesson that wills need to be crystal clear because once a person is gone, you can’t ask them to clarify their intentions.

There is no limit on the number of wills a person can have. The most recently drafted one is the one that will count.

After a person dies, a probate court decides what will should be followed, and how, to settle the deceased’s estate.

If you have a problem you can’t solve, contact Matt Gephardt. You can call 385-707-6153, email, or submit a tip online. 

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Gephardt: Is Your Will Good Enough To Ensure Your Will Will Be Done?