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 Do It Yourself (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. To help you understand the inherent problems your estate may encounter if you use DIY forms, consider the following information about the dangers in DIY Wills.
The Need for a Basic Estate Plan
You may think you don’t have a large enough estate to worry much about what happens to it; however, if you really think about it that is likely not the case. Although you may not have a valuable estate in terms of monetary value, you may have possessions that have sentimental or familial value to you. Family heirlooms or items that represent a special time in your life likely have value to you. You may even have promised some of these items to a friend or favored family member. Without an estate plan, however, you have no control over what happens to them.
The Dangers in DIY Wills
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 problems 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.
The Real Test – After You Are Gone
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.
If you have questions or concerns regarding DIY Wills, or you would like help getting started with your estate plan, contact the attorneys at Nash Bean Ford & Brown, LLP by calling 309-944-2188 to schedule your appointment today.