If you are traveling and don't have the time to consult a lawyer, you can create your own last will and testament to ensure that your wishes are carried out should you pass away. State laws vary, but in many cases the courts will accept a do-it-yourself will, provided it is created and witnessed properly. When you get home after your travels, you can then see a lawyer and make a new will, which will then be your new last will and testament, replacing the temporary will you made yourself. Be aware that there are many things to consider with a will and a lawyer will ensure that your will won't lead to misunderstandings or conflicts should something happen to you.
What Is a Temporary Will?
By law, the most recent will that you write is the one that will be used when you pass away, hence the name "last will and testament." The only thing that makes your temporary will temporary is your intention to replace it later. Most states allow handwritten wills, or fill-in-the-blank forms, to be used, provided they are written and witnessed properly. The State Bar of California even provides California citizens with a fill-in-the-blank form to be used as a simple will (see Resources).
Writing a Temporary Will
A temporary will should should spell out who should be in charge of your children if you both should die. It should tell where important papers are and where a primary bank account is and who should have access to those funds and documents should you pass away, named as the executor of your estate. The will must be signed and dated. In most states, two parties not named in the will, nor spouses of parties named in the will, must also sign and date it.
Writing a Power of Attorney
In addition to a will, you may want to write a power of attorney to name someone to care for your children and manage your finances and property, and make medical decisions on your behalf, should you become incapacitated during your trip. In many places there are different forms needed for naming a person to make medical decisions on your behalf, care for your children or to manage financial and property matters. Illinois provides its citizens with a medical power of attorney form to be filled in. You need to sign and date this document and have it witnessed and dated by two uninterested parties. If it's a medical power of attorney, the witnesses should also not be your doctor or anyone else involved in your healthcare.
Revoking a Temporary Will
These last minute documents should not be considered a permanent solution. A formal will and power of attorney is best when time permits. This is just one option if you do not have the time to do them yet. To revoke a temporary will or power of attorney, you need only to create a new one with a more recent date. Destroying all copies of the documents will also revoke them.
Care must be used when drafting a will and legal advice is strongly recommended, especially in blended families involving children from previous marriages.