If you have yet to create your estate plan, you may be tempted to try taking a shortcut by turning to easily located online legal forms such as DIY Wills, trusts, or other estate planning documents. After all, using a DIY Will should save you both time and money and finally get your estate plan started, right? It may seem that way to you; however, in the end, your loved ones may pay the price for your shortcut because of the hidden dangers in DIY Wills. Let’s explore why a DIY may be declared invalid.
Why Is a DIY Dangerous?
It is tempting to simply download a Last Will and Testament form, fill in the blanks, and call it a day. It even seems as though you are saving a significant amount of time and money by taking this route. In truth, you may be saving time and money; however, there may be a heavy price to pay down the road. If you created a Last Will and Testament, the document won’t be tested until you are gone. At that point, you are no longer around to fix any problems that may arise – and there is a very good chance there will be problems, such as:
- Failure to distribute the entire estate – one of the most common problem that arises when DIY estate planning forms are used is failure to distribute the entire estate. One of the primary reasons for executing a Will is to avoid the state’s intestate succession laws. If any assets are left out of your Will, however, an intestate estate proceeding will have to be initiated.
- Stale language or law – Many DIY forms have been floating around the internet for years. Applicable laws may have changed in the interim, making some of the language in the form, or the entire form, stale from a legal standpoint.
- Not state specific – many of the laws that govern wills and estates are state laws. For this reason, a Last Will and Testament must be state specific to ensure it will be valid. Many DIY forms, however, are generic and do not include state specific considerations.
- Failed interaction between documents – using one DIY legal form is dangerous enough. Trying to use several that need to interact with each other is much more likely to result in failure because you need experienced legal advice to accomplish this.
- Improper execution – for a Will to be valid, it must be executed using the proper procedures. This is when some DIY forms fail completely because they don’t even explain how the state you live in requires you to execute the document.
Your DIY Will Could Be Invalid
Most of the problems with a DIY Will do not surface until after the death of the Testator. This tends to compound the problems because there is no way to clear up vague language, fix an error, or explain an omission. This often leads to litigation during the probate of an estate. If your estate ends up in litigation during the probate process it will result in diminishing the value of your estate, meaning your loved ones will receive less than you intended. It will also hold up the transfer of assets to your intended beneficiaries. Ultimately, your loved ones may pay a hefty price for your use of a DIY Will.
The easy way to avoid the dangers inherent in using DIY Wills is to retain the services of an experienced estate planning attorney to help you create your Last Will and Testament and/or a trust agreement.
Please download our FREE estate planning checklist. If you have additional questions or concerns about DIY Will forms, or you are ready to create your Last Will and Testament, contact us at the Northern California Center for Estate Planning & Elder Law by calling (916)-437-3500 or by filling out our online contact form.